[Podcast Part 1] Generation Z and the New Global Virtual Workforce

[Podcast Part 1] Generation Z and the New Global Virtual Workforce

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. Globig and Mary Lemons – VP of Human Resources Solutions at Global Upside – focus on learning about Generation Z. Generation Z is the first truly global and digital workforce entering global job markets. Part 1 discusses the following questions.

1. What is Generation Z?
2. When will they enter the workforce; when did Generation Y, Generation X, and the Baby Boomers enter the workforce?
3. How does this generation differ from the millennial generation?
4. How are they similar?
5. What are some of the key strengths and weaknesses of this workforce?
6. What kind of work schedule does Generation Z prefer and how does that fit in with the rest of the workforce?

TRANSCRIPT

Introduction

Anke:

Welcome to the Globig podcast where we talk to international expansion experts from around the world to make it faster and easier for you to take your business global.

Hello, I am your host Anke Corbin, the founder and CEO of Globig. Today’s hot topic is all about generation Z and the new global virtual workforce. This is part 1 of a 2-part series and our guest today is Mary Lemons, the Vice President of Human Resources Solutions at Global Upside. Global Upside is a leader in helping companies transform their finance, accounting, and human resources functions in over 100 countries.

Mary, welcome to the Globig podcast.

Mary:

Hi, thank you for being here.

Anke:

So, tell me a little about your journey and your global HR background. You had a vast amount of information there and it was really great to see you. So, share with us a little bit about how did you get into HR, what are your thoughts around what is going on in the world right now?

Mary:

Oh sure. Yeah, I am one of those people that wanted to study human resources development that’s how I started in college and I came out to Silicon Valley quite a while ago and since have seen lots of changes in the valley but I started my career here and worked for multiple startups and mature organizations before joining the consulting world with Global Upside and providing solutions for outsourced clients who want to outsource their HR solutions, domestically as well as internationally.




What is Generation Z?

Anke:

Very interesting. So, let’s jump in, let’s talk about generation Z. So, what exactly is generation Z? When do they enter the workforce? Who are they and how do they compare, you know, we have heard about generation Y and generation X, and baby boomers? What’s the difference?

Mary:

Yeah, well I think it’s good to think about what are these boxes that were putting people in and why, and you know one thing is, what is the definition of a generation is, you see a lot of times people or researchers looking at groups of people and kind of a 20 years period and what is the purpose of that for understanding. So, one of them is just to try to understand the decisions and the values and the expectations of groups of people that were born during and raised during a similar time.

So, I think it’s interesting. We hear so much about the baby boomers because it’s such a large group and the millennials but just to take a step back, if we look at where they begin, the Silent Generation are those people born 1945 and below and before. So, these people are in their 70s now and then the baby boomers is a really large group born 1946 to 1964.

So, they are in their 50s to 70s and then you have the gen X which is actually a smaller group that are relatively in their 40s to 50s and then the millennials are these really large population starting about 1977 to present. Although the millennials kind of broke off in two groups with the Gen Z being the newest tranche of workers and where the researchers right now focusing on, what is this new group going to be looking for in terms of their purchasing power and what they are looking for in a workforce.

So, the defining factor for the Gen Z, those really are the people that don’t have a recollection of the world post 9/11 which is kind of interesting. So, the millennials are really defined by the events of 9/11 where the Gen Z were alive but not necessarily old enough to adjust to what that meant in the world and so with that also have lived or grown up during the great recession period and seeing the impact on their parents. It breaks them into a kind of a different group of who these workers are that will just be entering the workforce.

So really, it’s a first true global workforce that we are looking at just coming in right now, some will join in kind of right out of college and some will join perhaps out of high school and even bypass the college experience. And so, this is the group that employers should be positioning themselves to understand more of, since they will actually surpass the baby boomers and the millennials in the workforce in a matter of time.

Anke:

Well, that’s fascinating. You know I have to admit that I certainly spent a lot of time looking at millennials but gen Z is fairly new to me. So, what are some of the kind of characteristics of this generation that you know really will apply to how they look at the workforce and what they are looking for in it?

Mary:

So, one thing they say is a really distinctive between the millennials vs the gen Z is, the millennials grew up or had technology as part of their experience but the gen Z are really the digital natives. They are the ones that don’t know really the world without technology and that’s one of the key issues and so how we communicate to them is really are, have lived in the virtual world more so than any other generation.




How is Gen Z Different?

Anke:

That’s amazing. How are they different from some of the other, the different generations because and what does it mean when you are a digital native, what does that do for you? How do you think different then?

Mary:

So, I think some of it is, how do they think different, well I think social media, definitely shapes a lot of their values and expectations and so, as an employer we need to think about, you know how we are viewed on our own social media. Employees can do a lot, I think even marketplaces have seen this elsewhere, so you know if you don’t have a good experience then your reputation can be slammed out there whether it is on Yelp or Facebook feeds, blogs. So, one thing to be aware of is how to use social media and how gen Z employees will view where they fall into that social media definition.

Anke:

Interesting. So, you are suggesting and I think this is really fascinating that they are going to be much more concerned with how the company that they work for is perceived just as they are concerned about how they are perceived as well.

Mary:

Yeah. Absolutely.

Anke:

Which is really an interesting decision-maker right. It’s not something you would have normally thought of as an employer when you realize you want the culture to be good and the job to be great but for that perception and that’s one of the competitive issues that are not always that easy. You know it’s great for bigger companies because they know that they have this major footprint but is really fascinating for other companies that maybe never really thought about it.

Mary:

Right. The social values and alignment for this generation will be really important that they are not entirely motivated by money but they are also motivated by finding the opportunity that aligns with the kind of their value system and what they believe in.




Strengths and Weaknesses of Gen Z

Anke:

Fascinating. What do you think are some of the key strengths and then also some of the weaknesses of this workforce?

Mary:

It’s a good question. On strength, one I think we can expect that this workforce will be highly productive, they move pretty fast and they like learning and they have grown up with a lot of collaboration. If you even look at the school environment, you know the students of today are expected to collaborate.

I am always surprised that you know, we can expect our children to collaborate and work together on projects where I often say we haven’t figured this out in the workforce. Yeah, it’s difficult to get people to work together and communicate but I think for this group that is growing up in this environment where they are expected to collaborate to get the work done.

And they have technology really embedded into their learning structure already; those will be some great strengths to bring. If also grown up in a world that’s pretty diverse and so I think that we can expect to see more diversity and expectations of diversity which ultimately lead to a stronger organization.

I think there is enough research out there that we know that the more diverse the workforce or the management teams, the stronger the organization ultimately is and so I think there is a lot of the strengths. I think that some of the difficulties for organizations will be that there is going to be a lot of expectations from this workforce.

They have a maybe a shorter attention span, they will expect to have an opportunity to have varied tasks, to have a more flexible work environment as well and there will be an expectation to be in an organization that is aligned with their core values.

Anke:

Do you think that they also consider themselves to be more of a global person as well as a diverse person that they don’t have the same level of boundaries because it’s so easy to have contacts already all over the world and to chat with people from all over the world and have interactions with people in any time zone. Is that another one of those characteristics?

Mary:

Yeah. I think they will definitely be looking for flatter organizations where they have an ability to, there’s going to be an expectation of greater communication and understand the why and how things are being done. You know, maybe that will be considered a little bit more challenging but they want to understand the context in which they are asking to contribute to the organization but they are also going to expect that they want to be productive and be held to, be given goals to be in a result-oriented organization.

Anke:

Do you think that the companies that they are going to be looking at, are they ready for them? I remember and I still think that a lot of companies are still struggling with the millennials and the differences in there. This generation almost seems like kind of that next step from the millennial.

Mary:

Well definitely. Well, it’s interesting that a lot of stuff I heard about millennials and actually even talking to somebody about millennials, and they said, ‘Oh, what? The entitled generation,’ which is hotly kind of debated and talked about. You know where is my trophy, kind of management training things that were out a couple of years ago is, how to manage, you know, the people that want a lot of feedback and want a lot of feedback and people who want a ribbon for doing a good job and I think the difference with the Gen Z is that they will expect to have a quite a bit of a feedback.

They are going to look to be mentored and they are definitely more entrepreneurial workforce. A lot of them have the lot of, still, a lot of research on what they are looking for, and a lot of them want to be entrepreneurs, to be their own boss and to make a difference in the world.

So, there are some differences between the millennials and the Gen Z for sure. But in some cases, you do have millennials and Gen X that are parents of some of Gen Z and you know one thing we know that is shaping the generation is that parenting is the number one influence of that generation as well as the technology and economics that existed during this generation.

Anke:

So, it seems like they almost had a little bit tougher than maybe the millennials generation did just because things did get a little bit more difficult economically and so maybe they are more resilient and understand the need to work for what they earn. If you will?

Mary:

I think it’s definitely. I sense a more utopian kind of mindset and what they are looking for and it’s kind of interesting to think about, you know, what was the impact of the world in which they grew up on, that would kind of drive this generation down a path of looking for, that this is going to be, if you think about it you actually the kids today would not know what it was like to grow up in a world before there was an African-American president or before gay marriage or a lot of things that you know are hotly debated topics today. There will be just an expectation about probably more fair and egalitarian kind of society.




Gen Z Preferred Work Schedules and Environment

Anke:

Absolutely. What kind of work schedule does generation Z prefer?

Mary:

I think they are just going to want to be integrated with their life. So, they are going to work probably when they want to work and have breaks when they want to have their breaks. So, I think that the work will probably start looking less like 9 to 5 and more fully integrated to help people want to live their lives.

Anke:

So, as an HR manager and you have an organization of others that are all, you know, other types of generations as well. How do you fit that in, how do you build a team around such different schedules and approaches to work?

Mary:

Yeah. So I think actually in the end, we will find we are a lot more similar than different and I think one thing is technology is actually going to bring us I think, even closer together vs further apart and I can just say, just from my personal experience, boy, I am really using that you know, I won’t name names but I place the order and expect the delivery today.

And so, I think, a society we are all going to be shaped by how technology is changing. I think the key difference will be that for some we won’t have the digital native understanding in a certain way. Maybe we will come along and will get better but being that we learned it vs being hardwired into our system. I think that will be a difference.

But in a workforce, I think how do we bring the different generations together, I mean, one would probably be understanding the kind of value each generation has and capitalizing on how we can work together. For some organizations, you know, maybe we are putting on and about what collaboration looks like, and expectations around where power is in the organization and in groups where everybody is able to contribute and maybe there is less hierarchy which is different for maybe a certain workforce to understand, how to work with a flatter organizational structures.

Anke:

I think that’s exciting.

Mary:

Yeah, I think it is exciting as well. I mean I think the challenge will be for organizations that perhaps we will not be able to just by the mere nature of work they do, have as much flexibility in their workforce and I am just thinking of thanking all. I think I heard the other day there won’t be tellers anymore in the world that I know but I think the work is going to continue to change and there will be a lot more automation in areas as well.

So, it’s definitely kind of cutting edge. I am curious to see what’s going to look like in the future as well. I think a lot of the jobs, you know, people, kids will be preparing for today, we don’t even know what those jobs are and what will exist.




Closing Thoughts

Anke:

Absolutely, that’s I think is really an exciting part. It’s going so fast. Isn’t it and all the things are really changing very quickly. Five years from now, there is an entirely new job landscape that’s just ready for this generation. So, someone wanted to learn more about this and really get to understand generation Z and the kind of HR implications. What are you, do you have any great resources that you would like to share? Are there some things you found a bit super helpful for you?

Mary:

Yeah, there is, well, Global Upside. We, globalupside.com, we list blogs, and we have resources on topics that are interesting to us. We would be looking at the changing employment landscape and how it’s going to affect organizations and strategies on how to address those challenges.

Anke:

Absolutely. You know the only thing I want to make sure you know, this is a global phenomenon. So this is not just happening here in the US and that’s what I think is really important for everyone listening to recognize is that this is happening everywhere which means that either we all have to kind of shift it, we are not going to be able to take this and move it somewhere else. Right?

To think, ‘Oh well this is not going to be familiar in this environment so, I will go into a different environment.’ This is truly a lot of all these kind of shifts that are happening, they are global shifts they are not just local shifts.

Mary:

Yeah, the Gen Z really is or any of these generational studies look at the world and although there will be some key differences if you were growing up during difficult times you would eventually catch up but you are still in the same economic and technology era that is influencing how you think and feel and why and you want to work so, there is no avoiding that.

Anke:

Absolutely. Is there anything you would like to add that I haven’t asked you about kind of around this global virtual workforce?

Mary:

No, I think. You know I am the one, I hate stereotypes because I always think it puts people in the boxes and I don’t know if you know people don’t want to be defined that way. So, I don’t think of looking at the different generations really as stereotypes which I think often happens which is understanding what influences that shape the values of the people and how you can work with people. I think its really positive to be studying this and then what the impact is as it helps you in your personal and professional life.

Anke:

Absolutely. I think that’s really really great advice. Mary, I want to thank you so very much for joining us today. Make sure that you tune in for the next segment, segment number 2 of this series on generation Z where we are going to explore whether generation Z is the HR manager’s dream or nightmare, and maybe it’s actually both. Don’t forget to subscribe to this podcast channel and go to globig.co, the website for your online international expansion headquarters where you will find a one-stop international expansion marketplace and an abundance of free resources, training, planning tools and vetted experts around the world.