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What you can learn from Generation Z

First a little introduction; I’m Amelia, TSG’s newest Marketing Executive and a recent graduate – the baby of the team. A few weeks ago, I knew next to nothing about the business of IT, but TSG gave me a chance to show what I had to offer… and here I am now, writing my first ever blog; I hope it makes you think differently about potential employees just like me.

I sat down this morning with every intention of writing a blog detailing my concerns over the digital skills gap, addressed here by our very own Natasha Bougourd back in June.

Then it hit me. We’re talking about a completely different generation to any that have come before; a generation that has grown up knowing no different than to be surrounded by technology and a generation that I happen to class myself a member of, yet society still worries that us youngsters won’t be able to handle the new era of a digital workplace that lies ahead? Think again.

‘Generation Z’ is set to comprise 32% of the global population of 7.7 billion by 2019 (UN), surpassing our ‘Millennial’ predecessors and ultimately taking over the global workforce in due course.

So, let’s get one thing straight - technology is only new if you don’t remember the way it was before. Therefore, this begs the question why the world is in a moral panic, desperately trying to teach us the skills they think we need in order to adapt to the workplace? Wake up! Generation Z will be the ones shaping it.

We’ve been metaphorically spat-out into the harsh reality of the world; 9-11, the war on terror, the 2008 recession, we’ve seen it all. Yet two of the major misconceptions about my generation is that we have no concept of wider current affairs and that we spend too muchtime using technology (ironic isn’t it). We’re forever lectured to get off our phones and go outside, “they’re rotting your brains”, we’re told. In every editorial column there seems to be someone having their two-pence on why social media is creating a world of self-obsessed, anxiety-ridden individuals and how ‘selfies’ are the root of all evil.

Of course, I can see some legitimacy in these arguments and believe there’s a fine balance between being completely reliant on technology and using it just enough for it to enrich your life. Nonetheless, I can list countless positive interactions with technology in my life to date that have equipped me with valuable digital skills.

My friend and I once spent an entire day building a den from every blanket, cushion and rug we could find in the house – and I still have the video slideshow I edited using my mini notebook laptop to remember it by – I was 9 years old.

I learnt the basis of coding not from a classroom, but by using social media blogging site Tumblr in my spare time. Why? Because I enjoyed making the theme of my ever-so hipster page all pastel pink and pretty, not because I was thinking about paving my career path.

The mock advertising campaign that earnt me a precious A* grade in GCSE Media Studies wouldn’t have been possible if I hadn’t spent the whole summer previously posing in fields with my friends, snapping thousands of potential ‘profile pictures’ for our Facebook accounts, then spending even longer editing them until they were just right.

The point I’m trying to make is, although each member of Gen Z is different depending on our various life experiences, these digital skills are intrinsic to who we are; built into our wiring as a result of a lifetime immersed in the revolutionary world of technology and these natural experiences during our coming of age.

Gen Z has been brought up by innovation and the opportunities, as well as challenges, it brings with it. Unlike other generations, we were never taught how to use technology in a certain purpose-built way, instead we chose how to mould every new gadget or social media platform into our lives in ways which would enhance it. We’re also more than familiar with the constant onslaught of information being fired at us from every possible angle and platform, meaning we have an ability to process what messages are relevant to us quickly and effectively, before switching to the next task. Multitasking is also a natural capability for Generation Z and makes up for our shortened attention spans.

You could say ‘work smarter, not harder’ is the ethos for Gen Z, but I disagree with this somewhat. Rather, we can achieve what we set out to do in a more efficient manner, but our drive to stay ahead of the game means we don’t stop there. Throw the typical 9-5 week out of the window, we can do both work and play, 24/7, all at the same time.

So, what do you need to know about the generation set to shape the future?

From my perspective, there is no urgent need to be teaching specific digital skills to prepare Generation Z for the workplace, as this will most likely be outdated knowledge by the time they get there. Instead, workplaces should continue to evolve in their absence, equipping themselves and their teams with the types of tools that are second nature to Gen Zs, for a seamless transition when it’s time for entering the world of work. If you focus on maintaining your business’ digital training and innovation now, Gen Z will meet you in the middle.

Nonetheless, education can play its part too. Offering a specific subject such as Computer Science has its place in catering to those with additional interest, but simply replacing clunky, made-for-purpose Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) with powerful collaboration tools such as Teams available in Office 365, will mean students are already familiar with the futureproof packages that are likely to form the foundations of most workplaces for years to come.

As future employers, it would be wrong to underestimate the innovative ideas and diversity Generation Z has to offer. Yes, we work a little differently and we may not see the world through the same lens as those who have come before us, but who knows… you might just learn something from us kids.

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