If you ask kids nowadays what they want to be when they grow up, chances are you might not recognize the answers.
In 2011, Duke University professor Cathy Davidson forecasted about two-thirds of children entering school now will have jobs that haven’t been created. In her book, Now You See It: How the Brain Science of Attention Will Transform the Way We Live, Work, and Learn, Davidson says the new digital era will revolutionize schools and workplaces in ways not yet considered.
The biggest revolution could come from the upcoming Generation Z, which is made up of kids and young adults who have never lived in world without smartphones and social media. This generation, which began with people born from about the mid-1990s to early 2000s, is now entering the workforce in greater numbers and is expected to make up 20 percent of employees by 2020.
Gen Z, and their technological-driven way of life, will continue to transform how we work, when and with whom or what. The transformation will force employers to adapt even further to what is now a fourth, much different generation, in the employee mix.
“Generation Z grew up in technology,” says Mary Donohue, CEO of Donohue Learning, which specializes in on-demand learning for generational communication and management. “They’ve never not been in touch, or on their own, or without a phone. To them, technology is like a soother.”
Experts also forecast more jobs around privacy and information security, nano-engineering, digital architecture and what some are calling corporate “disruptor” roles.
Their skills, along with new technology and innovation, will drive change in types of jobs that will be developed in the coming decade or more. Expect to see more data scientists and miners, who crunch and analyze the growing volume of content and information being produced. Experts also forecast more jobs around privacy and information security, nano-engineering, digital architecture and what some are calling corporate “disruptor” roles. These roles are the technology equivalent of restructuring agents. The difference is these disruptors will fix technology as well as processes within organizations.
“Some of the traditional roles will still need to be there, but will take on a different feel,” says Gena Griffin, regional manager at Robert Half; however, she says the shift has already begun.
Griffin cites quality assurance roles as an example, where companies are using online tools to gain feedback from consumers, but still rely on humans to respond and act.
She also points to a merging of traditional financial analysts and data analytics role at many organizations, as another example.
“I think we’ll go through a period of time, which has already started, where there is a hybrid emergence of these roles, which will then evolve into new positions,” says Griffin.
“That said, I don’t think the tap will suddenly shut off, and all of a sudden roles are redundant and new roles are available.”
Marsha Forde, director of human resources at job-search website Workopolis, says Gen Z will also drive growth in part-time work, as they pursue jobs that both make them money and fulfil passions.
“We already see this trend with Millennials, but I think it will continue,” says Forde. “The challenge will be finding the balance between what you want to do and what the industry needs.”
Forde says another challenge for this next generation of workers will be heightened competition for roles not just with older workers, but also among themselves.
“This generation is very intelligent and very savvy. They know nothing but high speed,” Forde says. “The competition and pressure will start earlier in their careers than perhaps in previous generations.”
For employers, the challenge will be to adapt to yet another generation of workers with different expectations and communication styles.
For employers, the challenge will be to adapt to yet another generation of workers with different expectations and communication styles. For the next few years, four generations — baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z — will all be working together.
With the addition of Gen Z, employers will be forced to continue to find new ways of working, including more virtual working arrangements and shorter, sharper communications that the younger generations are used to, says Donohue. Employers will also need to work more on attracting and retaining Gen Z, especially as more work virtually and not in traditional office environments.
“Engagement is a huge issue. They get all the technology they want. What they crave is a relationship,” Donohue says.
On the flip side, Gen Z will also be challenged to work in traditional ways that won’t be entirely replaced, such as face-to-face communication, which can sometimes involve long meetings.
“They aren’t good with long conversations. Their whole life [conversation] has been short and brief,” says Donohue, citing even the shorter videos we’re seeing today on popular channels such as YouTube.
Some core competencies won’t change, Donohue says.
“No matter what happens with technology, they’ll still need to know how to read, speak and present themselves — whether it’s virtually or in person,” she says. “Jobs will change, they always have, but some things about work will remain the same.”
This article originally appeared in the Globe & Mail in October 2016.
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