Workforce Management

Gen Z, The Future of Work, and HR Tech

By Chanell Alexander

Generation Z and the future of work

Something phenomenal happens approximately every ten or so years. Marketers, business owners, HR managers, and many other working professionals, as well as researchers, begin to prepare for the entrance of a new generation into the working world. It may be the younger half of a current generation. Or an entirely new age group.

What they share in common is that the past ten years have shaped their view of the world, and it impacts how they will interact with the community around them.

A decade ago, hiring managers and researchers were preparing for the entrance of Millennials into the workplace. Their work ethic and professional resolve differed significantly from their Generation X predecessors.

Now, as we begin a new decade, the latest young adults to come of age, Generation Z, are graduating from college and entering the workforce. How do their characteristics and experiences shape how they will be as workers? Read on for an examination of Generation Z, the future of work, and how HR tech will be a part of shaping it all.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z is made up of young adults who were born between the years of 1996 and the present day. They are known for being born during a time where always-on, always-connected internet, immersive technologies, and Big Data have been a critical part of both work and personal lives.

While many may be tempted to lump them into the same category as Millennials, their unique experiences and characteristics define them in a much different way.

Here are a few telling stats from Vision Critical and Fairygodboss about this new group of workers and innovators:

  • 88 percent of Gen Z individuals feel optimistic about their future.
  • Only 38 percent of Gen Z individuals think work-life balance is important, compared to 47 percent of Millennials.
  • 65 percent of Gen Z thinks that salary is important.
  • They are fully aware of the limitations of technology. Only 30 percent feel that science and technology can solve the world’s biggest problems.
  • 77 percent anticipate working harder than other generations did.
  • They use five screens, three more than their Millennial counterparts.
  • 24 percent say they are online almost constantly, while the whole group spends an average of six to nine hours a day consuming media.

In short, Gen Z digital natives are used to multitasking while consuming large amounts of digital media. They are entrepreneurial and anticipate putting in the hours they need to get what they want.

So, how does this translate to their entrance into the workplace and the overall future of work?

The Future of Work: Technology, Changing Demographics, and Gen Z’s Role

It’s no coincidence that as generations change, the work environment also evolves. Innovations in technology and changing attitudes and attributes cause the workplace to adjust to its new present.

However, looking at Gen Z and what they bring to the table, what will the future of work look like?

Shifting Demographics

Not only does Gen Z bring youth to tomorrow’s workforce, but it also carries a large splash of diversity. Half of Gen Z is made up by minority groups, and 81 percent know someone who is of another race. As a result, tomorrow’s workforce will continue to experience some of the most substantial changes regarding diversity.

This means that companies will have to continue to promote initiatives that show they are actively diversifying their work environment. Showing a dedication to cultivating a workforce that’s diverse in age, gender, and race will become increasingly important.  

An Openness to the Gig Economy

Even today, many workers are making extra income or fully supporting themselves within the gig economy. This concept represents the rise of workers embracing a less traditional work arrangement by freelancing or working project-to-project. It blurs the lines between conventional employees and entrepreneurial interest.

One survey found that 61 percent of college students would prefer to be business owners rather than employees. Marketo found that 76 percent of Gen Z individuals wish their hobbies could be full-time jobs.

Coinciding with the popularity of freelancing and flexible work arrangements, members of Gen Z are ready to take full advantage. Flexibility and room for Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit will have to be concepts that companies embrace as they recruit.

Using Technology Intelligently

In the next ten years, AI and automation are going to play an even more pivotal part in today’s workforce. Within the next decade, jobs that are knowledge-intensive, driven by automation, and characterized as being related to management are going to rise in popularity.

The rise of the PC in the ‘80s and ‘90s eliminated 3.5 million jobs. But it also created more than 19 million new jobs.

And while soft skills will always be necessary, technology will continue to creep into most of the knowledge-based work we do. Repetitive tasks are continuing to be replaced by machine learning, AI, and automation.

Again, Gen Z is made up of digital natives who have grown to become comfortable with using various types of technology, often simultaneously. Companies will be responsible for guiding this new generation in how to effectively incorporate these new technologies into an innovative workplace.

HR Technology Trends to Prepare for Gen Z

This new generation of workers is comprised of entrepreneurial digital natives who want to gain a sense of meaning from their work, to know they’re contributing to making others’ lives better. Companies have to figure out how to recruit, retain, and engage them long-term with the right technology solutions.

Here are some of the HR technology tools and trends that will define the next few years of Gen Z’s introduction into the workforce:

Technology-Supported Mentorship Programs

In a survey of 5,000 Gen Z’ers, healthcare was ranked as the most important benefit for an employer to provide, but they were surprised to find mentorship programs ranked as the second-most important benefit.

Gen Z looks to employers for one-on-one feedback, personalized training, and career development. Technology-supported mentorship programs are an excellent way to provide mass-mentorship to Gen Z new hires. A mentorship software program can help adequately match new hires with mentors, schedule meetings, and track the mentee’s progress.

Make Work Tap-and-Swipeable

Gen Z can summon a ride, get fed, do their banking, even buy a car with a couple of taps and swipes on their smartphones.

Job-critical systems in general must be able to accommodate this “everything in my pocket” mindset. When properly implemented, the benefits of making key functions like HR onboarding, benefits enrollment, time tracking, training, and project management mobile first typically outweigh the upfront cost.

Software for Feedback and Continuous Learning

Again, this group likes one-on-one communication and feedback. They want to know how they are doing so they can optimize their work.

This situation perfectly complements their entrepreneurial and innovative approach to work. They are used to learning new things and want to know how to perform at their peak. That’s why programs that promote continuous learning and performance feedback will grow in popularity. Allowing opportunities for real-time suggestions and effective collaboration will become paramount.

Gen Z has experienced a lot as they have approached their entrance into the workplace. Their young lives have been impacted by the Great Recession, a hot job market, and the growing prominence of technology in every part of their lives.

This situation has helped to produce a group of individuals who seek job stability, favor business ownership, and are optimistic about the future. HR managers can prepare for these individuals by understanding the role they play in the future of work, and how HR technologies can optimize transitions in the workforce.

To learn more about how you can prepare your workforce for big changes and stay ahead of the learning technology curve, view our free on-demand webinar:

Chanell Alexander is a writer for TechnologyAdvice. She is a freelance writer and digital marketing strategist. She has over seven years of experience in the nonprofit field, and enjoys blending innovative technology solutions with communications.