One evening you walk into your kid’s bedroom and ask how the homework is going. In one hand she holds a smart phone on which she is managing multiple Facebook conversations. It also buzzes quietly when a text or Snapchat message comes through. She is viewing a YouTube video on her tablet. And a sitcom is playing on a laptop. “It’s going great,” she says. You wonder how anyone can get anything done with all this multitasking.
Believe it or not these kids—Generation Z—will be entering the workforce at the end of this decade. As today’s kids grow up with unique Generation X parenting styles and with undreamed of technology gadgets, the way they will someday work will surely be different from today’s workforce.
Who is Generation Z and what will they need to work effectively? We share insights on the characteristics of Generation Z and its members’ potential behavior as a workforce—and offer planning opportunities to address their needs.
“Generation Z” will enter the workforce by the end of this decade
A significant change in the age demographic of office workers is near.2 Just as organizations are coming to grips with the needs of the emerging Generation Y, a new group, Generation Z, is looming on the horizon. Little is known about Generation Z, the children of Generation X. This generation, more than 23 million strong, began in the late-1990s and is ongoing. The first of this group will have graduated college and be entering the workforce by the end of this decade, right about the time when Generation Y will hit its peak as a share of office workers. Thus, the workplace will need to address both groups.
The challenge by the end of this decade will be to serve not only Generation Y workers, but to also anticipate the workplace needs of the emerging Generation Z so that both groups can work effectively.
Appreciation for social connection, structure, order and predictability
Generation X parents had to be independent as kids because their family life was unpredictable (see box at left). In turn, they encourage independent thinking in their Generation Z offspring.4 Divorce rates for Generation X are lower than national norms, partly because so many Generation X members lived through their parents’ split and they do not want their kids to have the same feeling of being “on their own.” Today, Generation Z kids have the highest home schooling rates in US history5 and high rates of one “stay at home parent,” both of which emphasize the “art of parenting,” and family as a secure base.6 Thus, Generation Z members are learning to value connections with family, order, structure, a work ethic, and a sense of predictability in their lives (Table 1).
Offer legible planning layout with clear circulation, interior landmarks, visual access, and obvious intent of spaces
Generation Y workers embrace choosing from a growing plethora of workspace types set within unstructured, social/collaborative planning concepts.7 Generation Z values structure and predictability, and may find a wide choice of workspaces, or complex planning layouts, undesirable. Rather, they may prefer office workspace that is easy to orient within, understand and use. Although there is increased emphasis on unstructured planning concepts and ambiguity in the use of spaces, organizations may need to offer more legible, well-organized environments8 to better reflect the needs of Generation Z