Generations X and Z Can’t Be Forgotten

May 9, 2018 – With so much attention directed at upstart Millennials, employers may be overlooking their employees from the 40-something generation and first generation to know only a digital world, Generations X and Z, respectively.

New research out of the U.K. shows that employees from Generation X mirror many of the workplace trends of their younger counterparts in terms of switching jobs, demanding diverse skill-sets and forging careers or part-time gigs from their personal passions. A recent survey of more than 500 professionals by Management Today revealed that like their younger colleagues, Gen-Xers have abandoned a single career path and are open to following an evolving working life.

Of the older professionals surveyed, more than half (56 percent) said they believe that a job for life stifles development. More than one in five, the study said, intend to change careers in the next two years. Twenty percent plan to switch industries.

Although the Management Today study focused on the U.K., many of its conclusions apply in the U.S. as well. “The idea of a job for life ended with the baby boom,” said John Ricco, co-founder of Atlantic Group, a New York-based search and advisory firm. “There was a time when companies had pensions and took care of their employee’s needs which allowed them to stay with the related company for life. Since the 401K was implemented and pensions became scarce that viewpoint has changed radically. Employees today don’t have the job security that generations past enjoyed which lead to job hopping.”

Here Comes the Next Generation

Almost half of the Generation Xers surveyed said they are likely to start their own business in the next 10 years. Seventy percent said they are seeking a “major change,” the study said. “Supported by other surveys, the age for starting a business is not mid-20s but mid-40s,” said Management Today. “Often with a family to support, Gen-X professionals believe owning a business will bring freedom and flexibility into their lives.”

According to the survey, the Gen-Xers’ main reasons for starting their own enterprises are the prospect of doing interesting work (52 percent), being one’s own boss (61 percent) and being challenged (49 percent). “The valuable combination of financial security and business experience give this generation the opportunity to design the next chapter of their career,” said Management Today.

Whether they are Millennials or Gen-Xers, people want to feel enriched and excited by what they do for a living, said Mr. Ricco. “Everyone wants job satisfaction, good compensation and more of a work life balance with flexible hours and better rewards,” he said. “I view it more as a shift of how people want to define their work and personal lives.”

Generation Z grew up playing on their parents’ mobile devices and many had their own smartphone as early as elementary school. Millennials might have been the youngest generation to navigate their way through mobile technology, but those from Gen Z have come of age with the mobile experience woven into their fabric.

What is known as “digital communication” for Generation X and Baby Boomers is simply communication for Gen Z. Now, with the oldest of Gen Z about to graduate college and join the job market, they are on the verge of impacting our workforce, according to Tomilee Tilley Gill, founder and president of search firm Executives Unlimited.

“The events and global impacts surrounding Generation Z caused them to have realistic expectations of themselves and others,” said Ms. Tilley Gill. ‘This is not to say they are a negative generation; they are simply realistic. Generation Z understands the value of hard work and does not expect to have trophies or promotions handed to them without putting in the effort.”

“We don’t know about Gen Z’s work ethic yet, but what we do know is that they will be the most educated and globally aware generation entering the workforce. They will be utilizing the most current technology to do their job. I see Gen Z as being willing to work.”

Because of their lifelong exposure to mobile technology, members of Generation Z are digital natives. They communicate primarily through digital tools which allow them to reach anyone in the world at any time of day, said Ms. Tilley Gill. This level of global connectivity means they are acclimated to being “turned on” 24/7. This, in addition to having access to so many resources early in life has given Generation Z an independence not seen in previous generations, and found in most entrepreneurs today.

Gen Z were raised differently from Millennials. The family makeup consisted of both parents working, and giving their children more quality time vs. quantity. The oldest Gen Z is 21 and they are graduating from college this year. Gen Z are the digital natives. “They have never known a world without technology,” said Mr. Tilley Gill. “Gen Z appears to be more realistic, which may be due to the never ending amount of information they are receiving from social media and their favorite apps. This generation has been exposed to more cynicism, anger and media,” she said. “They are flooded with information globally and updated by the minute. Gen Z is participating as online consumers. They are planning their families’ vacations, purchasing groceries and clothing, and using debit cards at an early age. This generation is far more mature and getting real-life experience on a daily basis.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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