We all must adapt to Generation Z’s world

Published 11:45 pm Saturday, June 29, 2013

Generation Z. The future leaders of the free world.

Kind of scary, isn’t is?

To me, a Baby Boomer, it’s hard to understand how so many changes have come about through the years. I recently attended a seminar on this subject, and it was eye opening to hear just how the latest generation thinks.

Generation Z. These are our children and grandchildren, and they have never known a world without the Internet or cell phones. And they have lived their entire life with instant access to information on whatever subject they have in mind — they Google it. They prefer texting to holding a verbal conversation; they have two-way conversations composed of over-punctuated and under-constructed sentences.

But all of this is not a bad thing, mind you.

Gen Zers are smart. They have the ability to process massive amounts of information quickly, which is preparing them for mentally demanding jobs.

They are coming up in a world shaped by 9/11, Columbine and the War on Terror. They have a sense of social justice, philanthropy and maturity that comes from growing up during economically depressed times, times when they’ve seen family members lose their jobs and their homes.

They have a sense of social responsibility, something that has been lacking for quite a while.

As an employer, however, I much prefer Baby Boomers like myself. Baby Boomers take their values to work. Baby Boomers believe in working their way up the ladder with experience. Baby Boomers are motivated to do a great job and be hardworking from morning to night.

Baby Boomers are loyal to the companies they work for and tend to stay at one job for longer periods of time, possibly their entire careers.

But as an employer I also have to continually learn to adapt to the later generations.

Generation Xers, who came after Baby Boomers, seek fun and meaningful work. They value the freedom to set their own hours. They value the autonomy to achieve goals and many times prefer to work alone rather than with a team. They don’t want — or think they need — face time.

Generation Xers are skeptics; they expect change. They will not think twice about moving on.

The Millennials grew up in a culturally diverse environment, are tech savvy, enthusiastic, self-centered, confident, well networked and achievement oriented. They are one of the best-educated generations in history.

Millennials are part of the “everyone gets a trophy” generation, and they do not expect to have to pay their dues. They expect their opinions to be heard and considered, and they aren’t shy about expressing them. Millennials are driven less by money and more by accomplishment. They need detailed instruction about what an employer wants, but they want to determine how to get there. They will be loyal, but not blindly loyal.

And they are not concerned about job hopping. They will quit and find another job later, and if that doesn’t work out they’ll go to their parents for help.

Eventually, if we Baby Boomers can’t retire when we want to, we will work for one of these other generations.

And we will be left in the dust if we don’t come to terms with it now.

We have to learn to text, learn to Twitter, learn to Google. We have to learn to keep our strong political opinions — left or right — to ourselves. We have to embrace the new world, not rebel against it.

We have to grow up.


Sandy Cunningham, publisher of The Daily News, can be reached at sandy.cunningham@wickcommunications.com