For years employers have been working to better understand how to hire, train and employ young workers known as Generation Y.
But just when they thought they may be making some headway in understanding how best to develop and harness these young employees, along comes Generation Z. Its members are expected to turn the workplace upside down.
Born in the decade from 1990 to 1999, statistics show this generation is already nearly 7% of the American workforce, 11 million people. By 2019, 30 million of them are expected to be employed.
Bruce Tulgan, founder of Rainmaker Thinking, has been studying young people for two decades, and says the Great Recession somewhat muted the effects of Generation Y because the economic doldrums kept many of them from getting jobs and replacing baby boomers.
But as the economy improves and baby boomers decide to retire, Generation Z will lead to profound changes in the workplace, he says. (Tulgan contends that the oft-cited "millenial" generation is really two generations, Generation Y and Generation Z.)
"Generation Z grew up with great uncertainty. They grew up in times of war, and it's much different than Generation Y that grew up with peace and prosperity," he says. "They've come out with radically different prospects of what they need to do in their work lives."
Based on in-depth interviews with young people, Tulgan has put together research that shows Generation Z, whose oldest members are just graduating from college, "grew up way too fast and never grew up at all."
Because they're able to connect with any information at any time via smartphones and other devices, Generation Z never lacks for a constant stream of data. Generations before them might not have been exposed to this information until adulthood or had it filtered from other sources.
But Generation Z's interpersonal skills often are lacking, and they may not have basic manners that were ingrained in other generations at a young age, he says.
"They have tremendous energy and enthusiasm, but there's a big gap in the old-fashioned basics like personal responsibility and work habits," Tulgan says.
Employers need to understand what they will be facing with Generation Z so managers can tap their intelligence and provide the support these young workers going to need as an entire generation.
"It's a mistake for employers to say they'll just find one of the good ones," he says. "You can't hire your way out of the issues you'll be facing. They're (read more here)
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