Starting this summer, my department will officially gain our first two Generation Z coworkers. I think it will finally become passe to rip on Generation Y since we'll have a new target. However, I'm not going to be the person who throws the first generational punch on Gen Z. I think that they're a force to be reckoned with. They are more self-assured, more technologically savvy, and more likely to want to win than Gen Y.
As the first wave of Gen Z employees enter the knowledge workforce, Gen Y needs to do a little self-reflection, and we need to stop believing lies about ourselves before Gen Z tramples all over us.
Lie: Teamwork makes the dream work
Millenials are the teamwork generation, and I'm not going to be the person who knocks all teamwork. In fact, being a millenial myself, I'm often the person recruiting those of different viewpoints to help with some initial discussions. However, when millenials come to the table, teamwork gets confused with consensus.
Different perspectives can enhance solutions, but arriving at consesus is not the same as arriving at a good solution. Sometimes you just need to make a decision and go for it.
Generation Z is not going to work in teams the way that Gen Y works in teams; consesus building won't be Gen Z's forte, and as a result they will be quicker to move than Gen Y. Millenials need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of real teamwork, so that we can help guide Gen Z's drive to the top.
Lie: Millenials are the digital natives
I remember my first home computer. My parents got it when I was seven. It had a color monitor, and I could play solitaire on it. A few weeks later, my dad bought the internet which we were only allowed to use between 8PM and 9PM or on Saturdays between 12-3, so that we didn't clog up our home phone line.
I remember flirtatious AIM chats, my first email account, my first YouTube video, the exact day that I got my Facebook account, oh and MySpace.
Due to the growing digital connection throughout our childhood and early aduthood, millenials have unparalleled written communication skills. Yes, even in the workplace we write better emails and more clearly articulate things than Boomers (who prefer to pick up the phone), or generation X (who prefer to leave for their kid's soccer games).
Compared with Boomers and Gen X, Millenials are tech-savvy and great communicators, but not compared to Gen Z. Most of Gen Z communicates via video, and you can look at the explosion of Vine, YouTube and other video platforms as evidence. The heaviest users are under age 18, and I don't expect their use will drop by much after they graduate from college.
Gen Y has a comfortable leg up in technology and communication right now, but the workforce will shift to a nation of people of demanding tech users. Millenials should be prepared to think a little more like the true digital natives, Gen Z.
To be more like Gen Z, we need to start simplifying technological demands and stop thinking of computing devices as differentiators. Going forward, they will be tools, nothing more. And, by the way going forward, video will be a legitmate communication platform which might mean that I have to shower after my workout every day... uggh.
Lie: Millenials are a revolutionary generation
I hear a lot of discussion about how Gen Y has revolutionized the world, which is strange because we are the least confrontational and most practical generation since our Great Grandparents (who adulted through the Great Depression). Certainly, the world is more connected as a result of contributions from Generation Y, but at our core, I consider Gen Y an inherently conservative generation (not politically... yet).
We are more likely to crave and practically pursue stability than any other generation. How do I reach that conclusion? I'm looking at trends, and interpretting them as an armchair sociologist.
Millenials are more educated than any other generation. Why is that? Perhaps because college ROI has increased? No. It's because we continue to believe that college degrees are more likely to breed stable job prospects than non-college degrees.
At the same time, we are more entrepreneurial than any other generation. Why? Because we're a bunch of revolutionaries? No, it's because we inherently recognize that stability comes from skills not from employment history.
It's reason that millenials are more likely to marry later and have kids later. It's the reason that rich millenials (ie millenials with choices) like having a parent at home with their kids. I also think it's the reason that we've given rise to the social media self; a self that can appear more stable than we are to gain a larger network.
I find nothing wrong with the desire for stability, but I think it's a mistake to call the desire revolutionary. I think trying to brand ourselves as revolutionaries will only piss off our Generation X coworkers, and cause the future Gen Z coworkers to overlook Gen Y talent as they race to the top (because Gen Z likes winning more than stability).
So what do you think Millenials need to change before Gen Z joins the workforce?
I'm a wife, a mom, an employee, and a personal finance nerd who is devoted to spreadsheeting my way through life.