Make Way for Gen Z

This morning we welcomed Gen Z experts David Stillman and his son – a Gen Z-er himself –Jonah to Studio/E Masters. This multi-generational team (aptly named Gen Z Guru) has penned a very compelling book, Gen Z @ Work, and delivers engaging talks about the generation that is following on the heels of Millennials.

David, a Studio/E member, has been been studying generations for 20 years. He’s a go-to guy for business executives and politicians as they navigate how to best bridge generational gaps. A senior in high school, David’s son Jonah is the youngest speaker on the circuit and conducted one of the first national surveys about Gen Z’s workplace attitudes with some of his peers. These two have been featured in the New York TimesFast CompanyTIME Magazine and other notable publications as experts on this unfamiliar generation — the one that will soon be filling the seats in our workplaces.

Not surprising given the age we live in, Gen Z is unlike any generation that came before it and David and Jonah are on a mission to bring awareness and literacy to those who will be hiring them in the future. While Millennials are highly collaborative and like engaging in open workspaces, Gen Z-ers tend to be more private and prefer to have their own space. As such it’s good to know that the tactics we use to entice Millennials will not work in similar fashion to Gen Z. And while Millennials search for purpose in their work, Gen Z-ers give salary a higher priority. If they don’t find it “on the job,” they will find purpose elsewhere, like in a side hustle, which is increasingly common among those born between 1995 and 2012. Oh and by the way, for those of you too old to know what a side hustle is, think moonlighting.

We find it interesting that so many of the differences between generations is that each one is shaped by the events that happened during their formative years. This includes technology (Millennials created social networks like Facebook and are considered pioneers; Gen Z grew up with this technology and are considered natives); parenting (Boomers pumped up their Millennial children with a lot of self-esteem and told them they can be anything they want to be; Gen X taught their Gen Z kids that they’ve got to fight to win); and current events. It’s no surprise that Gen Z is the most competitive generation to come along, given the environment they grew up in: they’ve never known a world without terrorism threats and they were imprinted during one of the worst recessions in living memory. This translates to a different demeanor in the workplace, with less collaboration and more concentration on winning. Being technology natives, Gen Z-ers don’t get excited about new technology releases — they expect them.

Here’s a quick video of the Gen Z Gurus telling the story of when David got an Apple Watch (the difference in their technology literacy is hilarious):

David Stillman and Jonah Stillman on Generation Z from Studio/e on Vimeo.

Another difference between Millennials and Generation Z is that while the former crave and request the ability to work remotely, Gen Z doesn’t understand the definition. Whether they’re physically present or attending via Skype, they are at work. So what’s remote?

The next generation to hit our workplaces is going to operate in ways that are more private, even more hyper-connected and they will come off as very driven. Our current workplaces have to accommodate the needs and desires of a variety of generations all at once and literacy of what makes each of these generations distinct allows us to make far better choices for everyone. So those of you who seem to have a “millennial” mindset locked in your brains better start dislodging that thinking and take the opportunity to learn a bit more, because the Zs are on their way.

Many thanks to David and Jonah for shedding light on this generation for us. To learn more about this duo, visit genzguru.com and make sure you check out their new book, Gen Z @ Work: How the Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace.

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