I don’t know about you, but I find shopping malls to be tremendously tiring: so many choices, so many people, so much noise. But at the same time, shopping malls can be truly surprising, and even inspiring.
The last time I’ve found myself in a shopping mall, a crying kid got my attention. A preschooler. Big tears were rolling on his cheeks, and sheer disappointment covered his cute little face. Why, you may wonder? Because the toy tablet he wanted to play with refused to change its screen whenever he swiped. He couldn’t seem to understand why. His swiping was perfect every time.
Forgive me for generalizing, but if all kids today — the iGeneration — expect all screens to be interactive, and are disappointed when they find the contrary, what can we expect from them when they grow up?
What will they expect the world to be?
What will they expect the workplace to be?
And why should companies care about this now?
What is the iGeneration?
The iGeneration — also referred to as the Generation Z, or the Founders — is the generation following Millennials. The lines between generations are always blurry, but one could say that people born after 2000 (today’s babies, toddlers, and teenagers) belong to the iGeneration.
If Millennials find it hard to remember a time before Google, the iGeneration not only have a hard time imagining a Google-less world, but they find it hard to remember a world without Apple. They grew up and are growing up surrounded by iPods, iPhones, iPads, and all the iProducts the tech giant heavily markets all over the world. Ergo, they got the iGeneration tag.
What will the iGeneration expect from the workplace?
Maybe it’s too early to consider this, but you know what every mother says about her children:
They grow up so fast…
And they will grow up, and they will join the workforce. And this will happen sooner rather than later.
The iGeneration’s expectations from the workplace will probably be similar to today’s Millennials’ expectations:
- Real work-life balance. A pipe does not break only during weekends. A cold does not cure itself overnight. A human being cannot have high productivity for eight hours straight, day after day. Employees need to have more control over when and how they work, and when and how they do something else.
- Mobility. Desktop computers are great, but they have one big flaw: they have to stay in one place for a long time. Laptops, tablets, and smartphones can be as powerful — if not more powerful — than desktop computers. And they can be carried wherever. The iGeneration will be less and less glued to office chairs.
- Always-on connectivity. A tech device, an internet connection, and a search engine. That’s the minimum necessary to perform knowledge-based work any time. As long as they have a safe internet connection, why should it still matter where exactly the iGeneration employees will be located when performing work? That’s right, it won’t.
- Great UX. From browser versions to the company website, from the internal CRM system, to the company LMS, the iGeneration won’t be impressed with a less than great user experience. If a touchscreen won’t respond to a swipe, they’ll be disappointed. Maybe they won’t cry, like the kid in the shopping mall, but they sure will find something else to do with their time.
- A knowledge-sharing culture. Information used to mean power; now, information is on its way to becoming the greatest currency to reaching power. Social media and the share, share, share mantra is definitely a factor that contributes to this. All kids do all day is learn. They’ll become adults who’ll know that learning never stops, especially not after joining the workforce. So the iGeneration will expect everyone to share what they know, and become more powerful together.
And maybe the iGeneration will expect even more from their workplace. If you ask me, they’ll probably have better chances to get what they want than today’s employees.
Why should companies care about the iGeneration’s expectations?
The business world may be dynamic, but I think there is one thing that won’t change by the time the iGeneration will become a significant part of the workforce: businesses will buy less and less physical labor and more and more brain power from their employees.
Today’s knowledge-based economy will only expand. Automation will transform traditional jobs, and make room for new ones.
Skills like critical thinking, complex problem solving, selective attention, active listening, communication, and creativity will make the difference when the iGeneration will take over the workforce.
They may seem now like spoiled little brats who don’t know the value of iProducts, but they are more than that. They are the future.
According to Josh Bersin, the Principal and Founder of Bersin by Deloitte, the future of work is already here, and it's not as scary as you’d think. So smart companies will start to prepare sooner rather than later. And when time comes, they’ll be ready for the iGeneration.