Generation Z: neither snowflakes nor zombies
4 December 2018 | 0
Despite fears that Generation Z might be a cohort of digital natives that would immediately displace anyone in the workplace not born after 1996 or be so enslaved by social media as to be effective zombies, a new study by Dell Technologies finds reason to be optimistic.
Surveying more than 12,000 secondary school and college students in 17 countries, the much anticipated generation has been revealed to have a deep, universal understanding of technology and its potential to transform how we work and live.
This generation is entering the workforce, bringing with it a technology-first mentality that will propel businesses further into the digital era while potentially deepening the divide among five generations in the workplace.
Tech in education
Some of the headline findings are that almost all of Generation Z (98%) have used technology as part of their formal education, with slightly less (91%) saying the technology offered by an employer would be a factor in choosing among similar job offers. A strong majority (80%) want to work with cutting-edge technology and of those, 38% are interested in IT careers, while 39% want to work in cybersecurity. Almost half (46%) aspire to do technology research and development.
Perhaps reflecting the optimism of youth, 80% believe technology and automation will create a more equitable work environment by preventing bias and discrimination.
This optimism is perhaps somewhat pragmatic, as there is also a strong realisation (89%) that the world is entering an age of human-machine partnerships, and more than half (51%) of respondents believe that humans and machines will work as integrated teams, while 38% see machines as tools for humans to use as needed.
With regard to older colleagues, there is also room for optimism for the Z cohort. More than three quarters (77%) said they are willing to mentor an older co-worker who may be less experienced with technology.
This willingness to share their knowledge is based on the fact that 73% rate their technology literacy as good or excellent, and 68% say they have above-average coding skills. And yet, nearly all new grads (94%) have some concerns about future employment.
“Although it is almost a given that digital natives have embraced technology and data science skills,” said Catherine Doyle, regional sales director enterprise, Ireland and SW UK, Dell EMC, “what is surprising is the level of digital maturity they are bringing to the workplace. Gen Z sees technology not only as a tool for enabling human progress, but also as a means for levelling the information empowerment playing field.”
“With up to five generations now in the workplace, businesses must help workers find common ground as they push to create a digital-first culture. Cross-functional teams with complementary skillsets can encourage knowledge exchange and a fresh approach to problem-solving. Organisations will also need to create a workplace in which all generations have the technological supports to ensure their workforce thrives in an era of human-machine partnerships. Only by developing a collaborative workforce empowered by latest technology can businesses transform and succeed in our digital future.”
Addressing the multigenerational workforce, the survey warns that businesses must help workers find common ground as they push to create a digital-first culture. Cross-functional teams with complementary skillsets can encourage knowledge exchange and a fresh approach to problem-solving, it says. Internships, rotation programmes and other early-career development opportunities can help young professionals gain experience and develop soft skills on the job. And reverse mentorship programmes can enhance technical competencies throughout an organisation, with Gen Z leading the way.