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  • Technology the Catalyst for Generational Differences

    January 11, 2017 | By NACE Staff

    Trends & Predictions
    A group of young employees use laptops, tablets and smartphones at work.

    TAGS: trends and predictions, generations, spotlight

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    When we talk about generational differences, we no longer can just identify differences between generations, but we can identify differences within generations as well, according to Jim Carroll.

    Carroll, a futurist and trends expert, says technology is the catalyst for the rapidity with which generations now evolve.

    “It’s not politics or sociology, because they don’t move fast enough,” Carroll says. “The speed with which technology has come into their lives has made the differences within Generation Z that are amplified when compared to the Millennials.”

    For example, Carroll says that there are definitely differences between a 30-year-old Millennial and a 25-year-old Millennial.

    “There was a lot of technology coming at them as they grew up, but it wasn’t a huge amount,” he says. “But if you take an 18-year-old and a 23-year-old today—both members of Generation Z—it’s almost like they grew up in entirely different periods of time because they would have been exposed to different sets of technology.”

    This carries over into the workplace. Carroll says Generation Z shares common traits with Millennials.

    “They have very short attention spans,” he says. “They need multiple different things to do. These are all traits that were common with Millennials, but they are much more pronounced with the generation entering the work force.”

    He says that a realization many organizations have not come to grips with yet is that this is the video generation.

    “These young employees consume video like it’s oxygen,” Carroll says. “When it comes to training or any type of education or professional development, the use of video is paramount. These employees have never known a world without YouTube, so if you're doing anything to engage them, it has to be video based. They are not going to sit and read policy and procedure manuals. Nor are they going to spend their time dealing with complex reports.”

    They also have little time for what they consider unnecessary or unwieldy tasks or formats.

    “They don’t subscribe to the idea of performance reviews or long, laborious processes in stages to move up the ladder,” Carroll says. “They don’t have a lot of patience for complexity and rules and structure. They get frustrated with antiquated practices. It has been a command and control workplace. Instead, they want to get in and get their work done without a lot of talking about it.”

    Carroll explains that, with members of Generation Z, organizations also have a powerful source of collaborative powers that they need to harness.

    “By growing up with mobile devices and social networks, the skills they bring into the workplace for collaborative capabilities is profound compared to what we saw with Millennials just 10 years prior,” he says. “Employers have to support that and take advantage of these collaborative capabilities.”

    While technology allows employees of all generations to work remotely, Carroll believes Generation Z still will value connecting in person.

    “The common prediction is that the new generation of employees is going to unplug, work remotely, and not congregate in offices,” Carroll notes. “I might be proven dead wrong on this, but I think that’s going to flip around so we’ll see a trend back to the workplace and increased human interaction.

    “The employees entering the work force have untapped tools and skills for the workplace. We have to give them more credit than we do. They have surprised us in the past and I’m certain that they will continue to surprise us in the future.”