Four Things To Expect As Gen Z Descends On The Workplace

Will Gen Z cause a generational divide in workplace? Will teams of seasoned professionals be overthrown by this new generation of digital natives? The future may be more positive than you think.

By Danny Cobb, Corporate Fellow and Vice President, Technology Strategy, Dell Technologies

With Gen Z (born in the mid-’90s or later) poised to enter the workforce, industry has been awash with predictions of a generational divide: seasoned professionals overthrown by a new generation of digital natives.

However, Dell Technologies commissioned research with 12,000 young people (ages 16-23 from across the globe), paints a more positive picture – in which different generations of workers come together for the collective good.

They Will Share Knowledge Across Generations

According to the research released today, 77% of young respondents are willing to mentor older co-workers in tech (debunking the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality).

Conversely, with 52% of young people more confident in their tech skills than their non-tech attributes, young professionals will be looking to mature colleagues/superiors for guidance and coaching in business. “Mentor and Be Mentored” is their prevailing attitude.

They Will Raise The Bar On IT Skills In The Workplace

With their advanced digital skills (honed since infancy, finessed at school), Gen Z’s entry into the workplace is expected to fuel a fresh round of innovation – and set the bar high for everyone else. After all, 68% of respondents say they already know how to code and 81% can think and express solutions in ways that computers can understand.

Like many Gen Zers, Thobani Nxumalo, a 21-year-old actuarial mathematics major from Johannesburg, is both responding to, and driving, this insatiable demand for workers to show they can use and learn the plethora of emerging technologies flooding the workplace. “There is a greater focus now on having the ability to use modern technology, learn new types of technology and adapt with the trends,” he noted.

They Will Harness Technology For Good

Evidently, Gen Z’s digital skills have opened their eyes to technology’s immense potential for good. Many Gen Zers aspire to build their careers on technology to advance human progress.

Almost half (46%) of young people see themselves involved in technology research and development, 40% want to harness technology to help others and/or the environment, and 80% see technology’s potential to create a more equitable work environment (i.e., by preventing bias and discrimination). No doubt their digital vision, grounded in a deep understanding of tech’s potential, will unlock exciting new possibilities and fulfillment in their lives, as well as the workplace.

They Will Surpass Our Limits

For many members of Gen Z, technology has flung open the door to a new world of possibility. For instance, Martha Chumo, a self-taught programmer who set-up a hacker school for girls in her hometown of Nairobi in 2013 (at the tender age of 19) after being denied a visa to attend Hacker School in New York, told CNN, “[In programming] you get to do something new and not use the same old technology forever—that’s the fun part, and also being able to build anything that you can think of.” Chumo is now pursuing business studies in London.

We can see the same formidable passion and commitment to pushing the envelope in Gen Z’s work motivations today. According to our research, what Gen Z desires most from work – beyond a good salary – is the ability to learn new skills and have new experiences.

Jake Zimmer, a 21-year-old management major/sociology minor from Connecticut, shares this zeal and determination. “I want every opportunity to gain exposure and a deep understanding of the latest technology – that’s going to put me ahead in the long run.”

In time, Gen Z’s empowerment, through technology, will bleed into the wider workforce. We’re already seeing seasoned workers take steps to improve their company’s and personal digital readiness. Our Realizing 2030 research indicates that 35% of business leaders aged 45-54 years-old are pioneering new digital technologies at work. This will escalate as a new wave of young, tech-savvy visionaries enters the workforce.

Placing Unity First

Of course, businesses will need to be prepared, by having the technology and opportunities in place to adequately captivate and sustain new talent, while uniting different generations of workers. But if they successfully harness the power of technology and the strengths of a multi-generational workforce, they will thrive in the digital era.