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David and Jonah Stillman: What Gen Z wants

LiveMint logoLiveMint 19-03-2017 Pooja Singh

Step aside, millennials. Gen Z is here.

Born between 1995-2012, Gen Z has just started entering the workforce. Radically different from the millennials, this new generation has a unique perspective on careers and how to succeed, says US-based David Stillman, who has spent two decades writing and speaking to companies on the topic of generations. In the book, Gen Z @ Work: How The Next Generation Is Transforming The Workplace, which he has co-written with his 17-year-old son Jonah, David explains how the new generation will transform the rules of the workplace. The book provides information based on studies of Gen Z’s workplace attitudes.

In an email interview, the Stillmans talk about what Gen Zers are like and what they look for at the workplace. Edited excerpts:

What are the key characteristics of Gen Z?

There are seven key traits:

■ Phigital: Ninety-one per cent of Gen Zers say a company’s technological sophistication would influence their decision to accept a position with a firm.

■Hyper-custom: Gen Zers have always worked hard at identifying and tailoring their brands for the world to know. From job titles to career paths, the pressure to customize has been turned up. Fifty-six per cent of Gen Zers want to write their own job descriptions.

■Realistic: Growing up with sceptical Gen X parents in the aftermath of 9/11 (terrorist attack) and the Great Recession has created in Gen Z a pragmatic mindset when it comes to preparing for the future.

■FOMO: Gen Zers suffer from an intense fear of missing out (FOMO) on anything. The good news is that they will stay on top of all trends; the bad news, they will worry they’re not moving ahead fast enough.

■Weconomists: From Uber to Airbnb, Gen Zers have only known a world with a shared economy. They will push to break down internal and external silos like never before.

■ DIY: Gen Z’s fierce, independent nature will collide head on with many of the collaborative cultures that millennials have fought for.

■ Driven: With parents who drilled into them that there are winners and there are losers, this demographic is one motivated group. Seventy-two per cent of Gen Zers say they are competitive with people doing the same job.

Gen Z @ Work—How The Next Generation Is Transforming The Workplace: By David Stillman and Jonah Stillman, Harper Business, 320 pages, Rs699.

What are the expectations of Gen Z from careers and the workplace?

Like the millennials, Gen Z will want career paths to move at a fast pace. However, Gen Z will push it even farther. Because Gen Z suffers from FOMO, they will want to also pursue multiple career paths at the same time. In fact, 75% of Gen Z say they are interested in having multiple roles within one place of employment. To Gen Z, it will make perfect sense to work in marketing three days a week and product development the other two days.

Gen Z has not seen a world without Internet. How much importance do they give to technology when it comes to work?

This is a big difference for Gen Z compared to millennials. Where millennials were digital pioneers, Gen Z are digital natives. They have only known a world where phones are smart. About 91% of Gen Z say that technological sophistication would impact their decision to work at a company. A lot of it comes down to being connected at all times. So much so that 40% of Gen Z say working Wi-Fi was more important than working bathrooms on the job!

What should companies keep in mind while recruiting and managing Gen Z?

As discussed, Gen Zers are digital natives. So naturally most will assume that when it comes to communicating with Gen Z, it should be tech-based, such as texting. However, 82% of Gen Z say face-to-face communication is the preferred mode. It will be key to remember that Gen Z has seen a lot of companies and leaders called into question. They want authentic and honest communication. In their minds, face-to-face will create that trust they are looking for. If we assume that the best way to connect with Gen Z is through texting or emailing, we will miss out on how they really want to communicate. The other aspect to recruiting and retaining Gen Z is to be sure to customize as much as possible. From job titles to career paths and beyond, Gen Z will be looking for something that is one of a kind.

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