What Gen Z is going to change

Did you like the supposedly difficult-to-manage Generation Y? Well, you are going to love Generation Z! Born after the mid-1990s, Gen Z is just entering the labor market, where – like those before them – they are going to upset the established corporate order even further. Although “Gen Zers” have the reputation of being ungovernable, for the companies that can meet their expectations, they may turn out to be powerful drivers of strategic, organizational and managerial innovation.

There are 16 million Gen Zers in France, while young people born after 1995 make up 26% of the population in the US. The oldest Gen Zers are now arriving on the labor market while the youngest are discovering kindergarten. Although it is still a little premature, of course, to claim that we understand Gen Z and can predict how they will impact the workplace, the broad outlines of this new generation are in the process of being mapped out. There is one thing that we can already say for sure: Gen Z will be very different from the previous Gen Y. There is no way they are going to slip into the mold of their elders.

A GENERATION WITH AMBIVALENT ASPIRATIONS

Though they may still be young, Gen Z already has quite a reputation. It is said they are techno addicts, narcissist and disobedient in the face of authority – in short, like Gen Y, only worse. In reality, though, Gen Zers present a much more nuanced picture.

They are hyper-connected but…
In Thumbelina: The Culture and Technology of Millennials (Rowman, 2014), the philosopher Michel Serres describes this new generation as “mutant”. He argues that technology has become an extension of their bodies and minds, with the result that Gen Zers can function in several spatial and temporal dimensions simultaneously. These “mutants” have even devised their own communication conventions, with images (like GIFs, emoticons, and cinemagraphs ) playing the leading role, far ahead of the written word. The mutants are gradually giving up “old” social networks (such as Facebook), and are throwing themselves into real-time platforms such as Snapchat or Whatsapp. This generation relates differently to digital content compared to their elders. They are not satisfied with simply consuming and sharing. More and more are becoming producers and co-designers on YouTube, Instagram and Vine. This online omnipresence does not spell the end of face-to-face human relations, however. Even though Gen Z actively uses five screens on average (compared to two for Gen Y), the under 20s are not deserting good old-fashioned conversation. Randstad Canada’s 2015 study revealed that Gen Z attaches more importance to in-person communication (47%) than Gen Y (43%).

Self-centered but…
“Selfie” was voted word of the year in 2013 by the editors of the Oxford Dictionary, and the selfie phenomenon – championed by the young – has subsequently gone global. At the same time, vlogging is rapidly growing in popularity. Although the video blogging trend might be a source of bewilderment to parents, it is exciting to the big brands, which see it as a powerful marketing lever. Putting yourself in the picture is a reality for a significant proportion of teenagers and post-teens today, but anyone alarmed about a possible rise in narcissism among the young can rest assured…

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What Gen Z is going to change

img encadré gen zBased on “La Grande InvaZion” (Boson Project and BNP Paribas, 2015); “From Y to Z, A Guide to the Next Generation of Employees” (Randstad Canada, 2015); “Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials” (Sparks & Honey, 2014); and The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business by Tom Koulopoulos and Dan Keldsen (Bibliomotion, 2014) ant an interview with David Mérieux, talent manager Nestlé Indonesia.