Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Orange Silicon Valley’s upcoming handbook about GenZ. Watch this blog for more details.
One of the primary drivers for any organization to study GenZ today is that she represents the workforce of the very near future. As we found when we engaged with a cross-disciplinary panel of workplace researchers, doers, and entrepreneurs, many of us are still trying to figure out the Millennial workforce.
Kelly Monahan has a PhD in Organizational Leadership, and runs a research practice at Deloitte on the demography of the workforce, a path that leads directly to the door of the Millennial employee. As the newest cohort in an increasingly multi-generational workplace, Millennials are the subject of massive misconceptions by others, and Dr. Monahan has inventoried the stereotypes: “idealistic, entitled, impatient, over-zealous, optimistic, tech-savvy.”
Do you see Millennials?
She also knows based on exhaustive research with 8,000 Millennials that the stereotypes are dead wrong. As self-reported in the survey data, the big sister of GenZ is “anxious, suspicious, pessimistic, stressed, risk-adverse.” As Dr. Monahan asked the GenZ workshop, “How did we get it so wrong?”
Clearly, a new paradigm that goes beyond the traditional career track model is needed. Monahan gives us a second inventory, one of contradiction: Millennials crave stability, but they need flexibility; they dislike ambiguity, but they remain curious.
If there is ambivalence and caution, consider this startling statistic developed by Deloitte: “5.6 million US-based Millennials who held a job in 2000 did not hold one in 2010.” The scars of the Recession, which impacted Millennials as the cohort with the highest of unemployment, 13.4%, are still real. GenZ has been watching from the sidelines as Millennials dig out from massive student debt, with the other eye on the looming impact of automation on entry-level jobs at employers ranging from supermarkets to law firms.
A higher bar to entry
The outlook is continued challenges, for all parties concerned. The upshot of the automation wave within the larger context of digital transformation is that higher-order skills are the new entry-level — the bar has been raised from repetitive tasks to jobs that need what Deloitte calls “higher-order critical thinking and reasoning.”
The good news is that GenZ is hungry for the opportunity. The even better news is that Millennials (1) think GenZ is up to the challenge, and (2) want to help. Deloitte’s Monahan posits what Millennials have to say to GenZ, their partners in the future workplace:
- -Learn as much as you can
- -Work hard
- -Be patient
- -Be flexible
- -Develop people skills
- -Look for supportive mentors
- -Seek stability
That’s the message from Millennials, perhaps, but is there another way forward, one that wasn’t present before, a workplace model that is native to GenZ — meaning it is built and in expansion mode? Remember GenZ is the first generation to have always had shared economy platforms as a option, so it’s no surprise the answer is another sharing platform: WeWork.
Founded a year after Uber in 2010, WeWork has grown into a $20 billion decacorn alongside GenZ to the point where co-founder Adam Neumann recently told the assembled US Conference of Mayors “As mayors, as leaders, as CEOs it’s our responsibility to set the trend of the future.”
At our GenZ Workshop, WeWork was represented by Elton Kwok, its GM for northern California. Elton embodies the messianic zeal of WeWork: a multi-pronged assault of startup enthusiasm and grit, cool design, abundance in the form of free food and refreshments and beer, 24/7 access for people and their pets — the message is clear; this is the best, most fun place to work that is not your company’s office.
Based on a recent tour of Silicon Valley corporate HQs, the WeWork aesthetic is a composite of unicorn HQs — lots of artwork, branding all over the walls, micro-kitchens and hang outs everywhere. It is all the cool office spaces in a blender. Above all, it embodies the collectivism of the stand-up, the product team approach to work, as Naumann put it to the mayors: “The trend is We versus Me.” Indeed, WeWork is now offering corporate design services, where it will come in and make your company’s offices look like a WeWork location.
Wherever GenZ works, whether it is WeWork or someplace that looks like it, it will be listening. The measurements of meeting room utilization and occupancy, of building access, bandwidth utilization, occur in WeWork’s facilities today, and are clearly just the beginning. As the use of additional voice detection and language processing tech is more deeply embedded into workflows and workplaces, the collection of data and application of machine learning for talent analytics — perhaps at the team level as well as individuals — will be a big part of how GenZ gets ahead.