Generations X-Z: What Looks Like an Evolution Will Disrupt the Workplace

11. April 2017

A new generation will enter the workforce sooner than you realise: Gen Z, those born between 1996 and 2010. Little is known about this younger generation, the children of Gen X, whom will have graduated from university by the end of this decade. At the same time, when they will be entering the workforce, Gen Y – also known as the Millennials – will hit their peak and form 50 percent of the global workforce. Last but not least, the first Gen Xers will begin to retire and bid farewell to the working world. The challenge for organisations will be to cater for the needs of all three generations in an environment that is going through a digital transformation, and where the use of cloud communications services is becoming the new norm.

Baby Boomers Dominate As Digital Natives Wait in the Wings

The significant change in the age demographic of the global workforce requires organisations to rethink their workplace culture as they soon will need to fit three generations under one roof. This could become a challenge for organisations that tend to rest on their laurels of past successes achieved by the Baby Boomer generation, and so far, neglect the impact of cloud services and other newer digital technologies on the workplace. The generation born after WWII still plays a significant role in today’s working world.

However, growing up and spending most of their life in an analogue world, Boomers are online at a fraction of the time as are the younger generations. New ways of work and leisure enabled by innovations like communications-as-service (CaaS) are too new a concept for many of them.

The reality is that public and private sectors are organised around Baby Boomer needs and tend to ignore that they will soon be retired, whilst digital natives are waiting in the wings to enter the workforce. However, technology adoption changed significantly from Gen X onwards, with the rise of Internet and cloud communications conquering and changing the world. With the rise of the Web, mobile phone applications and social media – all fuelled by the growth of cloud services – society has opened up globally, embracing diversity in a connected world.

Rise of the Freelancer Economy: Driven by Independence, Motivated by Meaning

According to a joint study by Randstad and Millennial Branding, employees now give less value to money than those over the last decades. Only 28 percent of Gen Z said money would motivate them to work harder and stay with their employers longer, as opposed to still 42 percent of Gen Y. The trend to find meaning in work and be able to grow in the workplace is rising to an all-time-peak.

At the same time, Gen Z demonstrates more of an entrepreneurial spirit, with many wanting to work independently instead of working for others. Communications-as-a-service offers the tools they need to turn this ambition into reality. Some already speak of the rise of the freelancer economy – 50 percent of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2020! Technically speaking, cloud communications services are the platform that helps these every generation realise their potential.

Focus and Productivity Are Considered the Keys to Happiness

However, the trend is not linear. Whilst physical offices will turn into the anchor points in the work life of younger generations, they will not be the universal centers of their everyday work. Traditional office environments will not be the place where the majority of value creation will transpire, and this will change the way teams communicate in the workplace: Cloud communications services will be the technology that underscores this shift to the new world of work.

Whilst Gen Y loves instant messaging in the workplace, even younger employees choose personal communication methods like voice chat and video over text chat and messaging – personal communication will not lose its importance despite the digital transformation! This fits with the finding that Gen Z proves to be less excited about the prospect of a hectic working place, which was still considered desirable by Boomers and Gen Xers. The majority cherishes a place where they can work and stay focused. In fact, younger generations see focus and productivity as the keys to happiness at work.

The bottom line: Gen Z turns out to be fairly realistic and has a stronger inclination to be career-minded, compared to their predecessors who are often depicted as egocentric and even narcissistic by some. Mostly because Gen Z grows up in stormy times and has observed how much Gen Y has suffered in the financial recession, their attitude towards work is shaped by better preparation, less of a sense of entitlement and more focus on measurable forms of success. Gen Z could easily turn out to be one of the most efficient generations as they focus on productivity and are naturally inclined to take advantage of the digital transformation and cloud services.

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