What Businesses Can Expect From The Next Generation

The following is adapted from Jean M. Twenge’s iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood, out now on Simon & Schuster.

There’s a new generation of workers arriving on your doorstep, and it’s time to get ready.

The first of iGen – those born between 1995 and 2012 – graduated from college this spring. Carefully protected by parents, shaped by the Great Recession, and impacted by an adolescence spent on smartphones, iGen is different from the Millennials (born 1980-1994) just before them in several crucial ways. (iGen is sometimes called “GenZ,” but with Millennials no longer called “GenY,” “GenZ” is an anachronism. Instead, the iGen label evokes the iPhones that have dominated this generation’s young lives). Businesses and managers need to take note: iGen might not be what you’re expecting, and the techniques that worked to recruit, retain, and manage Millennials won’t always work for iGen.

First, iGen is not as brash and confident as their Millennial predecessors. They express more doubts about their abilities and have more realistic expectations for their careers, possibly because they are more depressed and less optimistic than Millennials were at the same age. They are less likely than Millennials were to expect to be CEO of the company within 5 years and less likely to express feelings of entitlement. As iGen begins to dominate the pool of entry-level talent, expect to see more young employees who are eager to do a good job but are scared of making mistakes. Whereas Millennials demanded praise, iGen’ers want reassurance.

Second, iGen’ers grew up more slowly as teens, taking longer to work, drive, and date than previous generations. Although there are many positives to those trends, they also mean that iGen arrives in the workplace with less experience with independent decision-making. Give them careful instructions for tasks, and expect they will need more guidance. Managers who learned to be cheerleaders for Millennials will find they are more like therapists, life coaches, or parents for iGen’ers.

Third, a piece of very good news for managers: iGen is more focused on work than Millennials were at the same age. In a large national survey conducted every year, 55 percent of high school seniors in 2015 said they were willing to work overtime to do a good job – up from 44 percent of Millennial teens in 2004. iGen’ers are also more likely to say that they would work even if they had plenty of money and to expect work to be a central part of their lives. Perhaps because they experienced the Great Recession as children and have witnessed growing income inequality, iGen realizes they are going to have to work hard to make it.

Fourth, iGen is very focused on safety. They are safer drivers and are less likely to binge drink than teens just a few years ago, and are less likely to say they want to take risks. iGen is also concerned about what they call “emotional safety” – they want to be protected from offensive comments and emotional upset just as they want to be protected from physical harm. Expect to hear more young employees ask about how your company creates a safe environment, and take steps toward creating a more nurturing atmosphere while still educating iGen’ers about the realities of business.

Fifth, recognize that this generation socializes differently, using their phones instead of getting together in person. The number of high school seniors who say it’s important to have a job where you can have “a chance to make friends” or that allows “contact with a lot of people” reached all-time lows with iGen. They are so focused on connecting via social media that the social aspects of work hold less appeal. Thus, don’t expect social outings and get-togethers to be much of a selling point for this generation. In addition, some iGen’ers may have more trouble with social skills, given that they have spent less time socializing in person than any previous generation.

Likely due to their risk aversion, iGen is actually less likely to want to own their own business than previous generations.

 

Another piece of good news: Contrary to popular belief, managers needn’t worry that young iGen’ers will all be itching to be entrepreneurs instead. Likely due to their risk aversion, iGen is actually less likely to want to own their own business than previous generations: only 31 percent of high school seniors in 2015 believed that being self-employed was desirable, down from 48 percent in 1987. Instead, iGen wants stable jobs in enduring industries. This is a fantastic opportunity for managers at established companies, who can recruit a generation looking for steady work. Practical, career-focused, and cautious but with less experience with independence, iGen is willing to work hard for the managers who can understand them. Do so, and their potential is limitless.

 

Jean M. Twenge is the author of iGen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood and Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within this guest post are those of the authors alone and do not represent those of CBS Small Business Pulse or the CBS Corporation. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are verified solely by the authors.

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