Those are the words of American patriot, founding father, and third U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. When you read something so simple, yet so profound, you understand why Jefferson was such an historic persona and shaper of history.
As you look at the workforce of the future, a revolution is indeed on the horizon. What’s coming is the generation that follows the Millennials or is the late stage of the Millennial Generation. Some call the new generation Gen F, some call it Gen Z, and others use the monikers Pluralists, Homelanders, or Re Gens. There’s a bit of debate about exactly when one generational boundary ends and another begins (generally, experts they say this new generation started to be born in the second half of the 1990s and extends to today’s newborns), but experts agree that it will hit the global corporate landscape with a bang.
Regardless of what you call them, it’s time for you to know and understand what your future workforce will look like — and how to attract the best possible talent to make it a success.
“F” is for your future.
The “F” in Generation F started with “Facebook” and refers to a demographic of future employees whose skills, expectations, and demands vary greatly from those of their predecessors. This group also has been labeled Generation Z, a term less widely regarded because it may imply the end of an era. It’s also been referred to as Pluralists, for its general embracement of diversity, as Homelanders, because its members have grown up in an era of domestic and international uncertainty, and as Re Gens, because of its awareness of and commitment to the environment.
Catchy names aside, we’re talking about adolescents and young adults on the cusp of college and/or their impending entrance into the global workforce.
What do they look like?
This new generation of future leaders has grown up with social media and the Internet. They’re a step ahead of earlier Millennials who, though naturally tech savvy, still had to adapt to these online tools. Members of Generation F have never known anything other than being perpetually connected. Cell phones and tablets are not novelties to them; they’re simply part of life. As a result, they approach their career aspirations differently — they expect their work life to mirror the context of the social media that has been at the very core of their existence.
Let’s paint a picture of this up-and-coming demographic segment. They are:
§ Concerned about the economy. As much as the Internet was a “given” to this demographic group, so was the tendency to do more with less, as many of them entered their formative years during the onset of the Great Recession. This has made them more fiscally conservative, willing to compromise, and unwilling to incur large amounts of debt. Social researcher Tammy Erickson has called them “a generation of renters” because they tend to be less likely to need ownership and more open to waiting to make a major purchase until they can afford it.
§ Environmentally aware. Their tendency towards fiscal conservatism has made this generation ultra-conscious of issues such as recycling, reuse, and looming shortages of energy and water. As a social bloc, they tend to be more thoughtful and egalitarian with shared resources.
§ Relatively indifferent to technology. Compared to their immediate predecessors, Re Gens have an “unconscious reliability on ubiquitous connectivity,” as noted by Penelope Trunk, founder and author of the workplace blog “Brazen Careerist.” The Internet has always been around for them, so they “aren’t absorbed in technology... they grew up with it.”
§ Attentive to the needs of others. Neil Howe, president and co-founder of the Virginia–based marketing firm Lifecourse Associates, who coined the term “Homeland Generation,” notes that many members of this group are products of attachment or “helicopter” parenting. As an offshoot of this parenting style, Homelanders tend to be emotionally attentive to the needs of others and good at working in teams.
§ Likely to dodge conflict. These workers of tomorrow are categorized as well-behaved, trusting, smart, and high-achieving. Howe likens them to “the generation of the late 1940s or early 1950s.”
How do you attract them?
Because they are transforming the way work gets done, members of this emerging workforce group are the catalysts for a major paradigm shift in recruitment and staffing. To attract the best of them, you’ll need to ensure that your organization has:
§ Leaders who will actively listen to and meet the needs of all employees, maintaining two-way dialogue and ongoing conversations.
§ Self-defined and self-governed work groups. In online communities, you follow, link to and share with individuals and groups of your own choosing. To stay in tune with your workforce and what makes it tick, you’ll need to let employees create their own project teams, establish mutually beneficial goals and objectives, and self-monitor their progress.
§ Diversity and equality. The demand will be for a work environment where employees at all levels have equal ability to control company conversations and have their ideas taken seriously.
§ A “market economy” resource model in which human currency — such as time, attention, and effort — flows naturally toward ideas and projects that are attractive to employees and away from those that are not.
Yes, they’re getting more sophisticated. And it feels like work and life are falling into a new level of alignment, as the employees and leaders of tomorrow embrace their natural tendencies to be technically savvy, financially conservative, environmentally aware, considerate of others, self-motivated and inclined to place high value on effective communication. Not such a bad thing, when you think about it.
It’s the way of the future — and in the upcoming global marketplace, it’s the way of the world. So learn about it, embrace it, and welcome tomorrow’s workforce with open arms. Because, like it or not, here it comes.
This article was excerpted and edited from the August 2013 issue of the “Staff Matters” e-newsletter, provided by and reprinted with the permission of Salina–based Contemporary Personnel Staffing, Inc. (CPS) & Professionals, Inc. (www.cpsprofessionals.com).