Phyllis weiss haserot
Phyllis weiss haserot

President & Founder

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Get Prepared for Gen Z and an AI World

For years there’s been much agitating about the Gen Y/Millennial conundrum.  In a fast-changing world, those of us who are naturally future oriented see a looming change happening with Gen Z arriving – who are not Millennial types at all – requiring considerable employer adjustments. To a certain extent, the Gen Xers that are their parents’ generation may be more comfortable with them as diligent, independent-minded co-workers than with Millennials. However, one of the most surprising things I’ve read recently from a study, since in general the Zers are close to their parents, is that their own parents, more than other generations expect them to be difficult as employees!

As it seems for every generation, especially as its members enter the work world, there are contradictions bandied about from study to study and from one casual observer to another. That’s because individual experiences and circumstances as the newbies grow into new roles and personal dynamics may not be consistent. So in my hands-on work with clients, speaking gigs and writing, I endeavor to convey the spectrum of attitudes, behaviors and underlying influences to consider and watch for in your interactions with others as well as decision-making about hiring, talent and team development, client attraction and fit, and succession planning.

In last month’s Cross-Generational Conversation newsletter, I wrote about Earth Shifting in Workplaces as Gen Z Enters with stats from a recent large Accenture study. (Contact if you need a copy of the article). This month’s e-Tip relates some things to cheer about the Gen Z teenagers to early/mid-20s cohort and some issues of concern requiring serious rethinking.

First, how teens are exhibiting a sense of purpose. Documented since 2008, studies show purposeful teens do better in school, are healthier and more resilient. That encompasses about 20% of that age group, passionate about volunteering, teaching, being involves in civic or international causes and other such activities. Another 25% are thinking about purpose but not (yet?) acting on it or dabblers (30%) who start to get involved but don’t follow through. About 25% are disengaged, focusing on having fun and making friends. Trusted adults in their lives such as coaches, teachers, employers and parents can help teens think things through believes Kendall Bronk, a developmental psychologist at Claremont Graduate University, who developed online tool kits and the Fostering Purpose Project.

Those approaches call for #CrossGenerationalConversation.

The heads-up for employers and recruiters: workers who derive meaning and significance from work have higher work satisfaction, are 1.4 times more engaged and 3 times more likely to stay with their employers, found in a survey by the Energy Project.

Some studies have indicated that young people today are choosing their career fields and college majors while in high school, that is, before they have a good sense of the spectrum of options or what careers may emerge by the time they actual stat working. The president of Northwestern University, Joseph Aoun, author of “Robot-Proof,” thinks graduates today are not ready for an Artificial Intelligence (AI) world, and our education systems don’t provide what they need for integrating the kind of knowledge required, re-skilling, and life-long learning. Most of the  skills he thinks are needed for humans to stay relevant at work and outshine robots are things ”you can’t google” in order to learn to be proficient.  More about this and Aoun’s ideas next time.

We’d love to know your thoughts as employers, co-workers and parents about what changes the arrival of Gen Zers at work will bring, whether organizations you are involved with are preparing, and how.