Today’s teenagers aren’t typically painted in the most favourable light. They’re usually characterized as entitled, friendless, tech-obsessed and disconnected from society.
But a recent study conducted by 8×8, Inc., a provider of cloud communications solutions, has found that Generation Z (aged 18 to 20) has more in common with Generation X (36 to 50) when it comes to tech tendencies than with millennials (21 to 35).
Titled “Rogue One: How Generation Z is Going to Bring Balance to the (work)Force,” the study surveyed 1,000 part-time and full-time employed Americans to gauge their perspective on workplace technology and the future.
Surprisingly, Gen Zers were more interested in technology that would provide effective communication rather than convenience. A reported 50 per cent of this group valued time-saving tools versus 58 per cent of millennials and 55 per cent of Gen Xers.
In general, Generation Z sees less room for technology in the future workplace, including virtual reality, smart cars and wearable tech. The largest proponents of these technologies were millennials.
When it comes to communication tools, Gen Zers reported less faith in all devices and platforms over the other two generations, including text messaging, email, mobile phones, laptops, tablets and cloud sharing. The only area where they saw future value was social media (74 per cent) — a viewpoint they shared with millennials. But their preferred method of communication was face-to-face contact. A reported 26 per cent of Gen Z respondents preferred in-person communication versus 16 per cent of millennials and 15 per cent of Gen Xers.
“What we’re seeing is that Gen Z is a more balanced generation than people think,” Enzo Signore, CMO of 8×8, Inc., said to Vox. “They’ve taken the best from both the Gen X and millennial generations: They still value technology, but also recognize that sometimes effectiveness is better than efficiency.”
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint what is driving this difference between generations, experts (speaking to both The New York Times and Fast Company) have suggested that unlike millennials who grew up in the relative calm and prosperity of the 1990s only to see it shattered by events like 9/11 and the Great Recession, Gen Zers were born with their eyes wide open.
“If Hannah Horvath from Girls is the typical millennial — self-involved, dependent, flailing financially in the real world as her expectations of a dream job and life collide with reality — then Alex Dunphy from Modern Family represents the Gen Z antidote,” Lucie Greene, the worldwide director of the Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson, told The New York Times recently. “Alex is a true Gen Z: conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future.”
The results of this study are especially relevant as the oldest group of Gen Zers (born between 1996 and 2010) will be entering the workforce in earnest in 2017.
And their expectations are markedly different from the generations that precede them. In a global survey conducted by online job search company Monster, Gen Zers looked for three specific characteristics from the workforce: health insurance, a competitive salary and a boss they respect.
“A common theme we saw in the report is Gen Z’s emphasis on some of the more ‘traditional’ benefits like health insurance and a quality, two-way relationship with their potential manager,” Seth Matheson, director of Monster’s team of in-house recruiters, said in a statement.
This group also seeks work that has greater meaning than merely earning money — 74 per cent versus 70 per cent of millennials — and are prone to entrepreneurship. The majority of Gen Zers (67 per cent) are willing to relocate for work, and 58 per cent are willing to work nights and weekends to earn more money.
“We’re seeing drastic differences between what drives employees in Gen Z compared to previous generations like millennials,” Matheson said. “At this stage in the recruiting game, employers looking to attract future talent need to expand their focus beyond millennials to understand the next generation’s unique, practical job must-haves, and proactively develop a working environment that will keep them happy and motivated.”