It’s true to say that my iPhone is like an extension of my hand. There is an uneasiness that comes over me when I am too long without it. If there is ever such a thing as App Anonymous, I’ll probably be a good candidate. “Hello, I am Eliza. I am a digital addict. It’s been 13 seconds since my last swipe.” None-the-less, from Generation X, I am also a digital immigrant.
Digital Dependence is not the same as being a Digital Native
Like anyone born before the millennium, I remember life without Facebook. I even remember life without email. I got my first mobile phone, a Nokia brick, while living in London in my early twenties. It was 1999, around the time that the verb “to text” was created. Books were written about the new language of young people and how it could be deciphered. I should know. I was the publicist for Wan2tlk?: Ltle Bk of Txt Msgs. Back then we were still sending the press releases by fax.
When I got an iPhone 10 years later, I knew two year-olds who could easily navigate their way from Duck Duck Moose to Toca Boca after Skyping with family overseas. These swipe-right two year-olds are part of Generation Z: true digital natives. For them the word device is synonymous with a screen that links them to an online world. Having grown up with smart phones and a world of content at their fingertips, Gen Z has an intuitive and logical approach to technology.
Generation Z are joining the workforce and bringing their tech skills with them.
Although there is not consensus on the exact birth date range for this generation, most agree that it starts from the late 1990s. The oldest members of Generation Z are barely 18. As these young people enter the workforce they will bring technical know-how that enables them to source, decipher and share information with the new cool kids of communication: snapping, posting, messaging and commenting is the new language of these young people.
Are they just screen addicts who won’t be able to focus on work?
Social researcher Mark McCrindle believes this is a generation of highly educated, technologically savvy, innovative thinkers. They have not only grown up with dedication to devices, but also amid global terrorism and recession. As a result, they are considered to be more conservative, realistic, pragmatic and cautious than their predecessors. A study by Randstad US in 2014 suggested that this generation will be more successful in the world of work than previous generations due to their emphasis on entrepreneurialism, honesty and communication.
Here are 3 key reasons Generation Z will make great employees:
- Digital Natives will fill jobs that have only just been created and some that don’t have titles yet. Social businesses are thriving businesses, more in touch and engaged with their customers, clients and employees. Teenagers of today will be our future social media & digital strategists, social media community consultants and social content & community managers, who will guide our success as social businesses.
- The online reach and social networking skills of Gen Z can be harnessed for sharing content to attract talented peers online. Social recruiting is rapidly gaining momentum. Employers are increasingly looking to their employees to act as ambassadors to share company content and represent their employer brand online. Google’s Lars Schmidt encourages the whole organisation to be involved in recruiting.
- Socially conscious, Generation Z want to have a positive impact on the world and they will readily initiate and contribute to ethical, sustainable change. Using their “8-second filter” this generation can process massive amounts of information quickly. Having consumed and curated so much content, this generation has formed a great interest and awareness in the world around them.
Pay attention to what makes Generation Z tick to attract and retain them.
Many employers have struggled for years on how to attract and retain Generation Y. The time has come to give thought now to the next generation coming through. Given what the research suggests about Generation Z, it will be important to take them seriously and give them an opportunity to make early meaningful contributions. The Randstad US study suggests that they are less influenced by money and more motivated by opportunities for advancement.
To my fellow digital immigrants, we are fortunate to be able to learn from this generation as much as train them when they join our teams in the coming years. Of course they will still be developing their knowledge around how their skills apply in the context of a work environment, but we should be open to developing our knowledge too. By harnessing what comes naturally to these future employees and learning from the way in which they create and curate content across social networks, we can look forward to the great contribution they will make.
Eliza Kennedy is the co-founder of Be Social. Be Smart, an education and training initiative that partners with secondary schools in Australia to empower students to be thoughtful, effective digital citizens and build their personal brand online. Having worked in marketing, recruitment and employer branding in London, South America, Hong Kong and Australia, she has had an insider’s view into the social hiring strategies of some of the world’s biggest employers. You can find Eliza on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.