If someone told me 10 years ago that all my corporate emails would now be browsable and searchable by anyone at the company, I would have eaten my Blackberry. Fast forward to today and we have Slack, a tool that the next generation can’t get enough of that has made just about all business correspondence public and searchable within a company — and has just had one of the biggest stock market debuts in recent memory.
These days, the generational gap in the workplace seems starker than ever. The average age in the C-suite is 54, and CEOs and CFOs are actually getting older on average. Meanwhile, millennials have represented the majority of the U.S. labor force since 2016. Seemingly wider than the age gap is the culture gap. A generation that remembers Betamax will soon be sitting across the conference room (or video chat) from a generation that was practically born connected to Wi-Fi.
What does all of this mean for the modern workplace? Here are my predictions for some of the biggest changes the next-next generation will catalyze at businesses across the country and world — and some ideas for how to be sure your companies are ahead of that change and not relegated to the past tense.
Social Media, UGC And Hiring
Today, it’s a standard operating procedure to set your Facebook to private or strategically clear out your Instagram feed while on the job market, and the majority of Gen Xers and older millennials have undoubtedly spent no small amount of time managing their social media footprint in one way or another.
But what if your entire life was out there in video form, on Instagram or TikTok, starting when you were about 10 — which is now the average age kids in the United States get their first phone. Even further, one-fourth of children under 6 have their own device. Gen Z loves to create, too -- 25% of Gen Zers post original video on a weekly basis.
Will employers still be looking through all that? And more importantly, should they be?
Prediction: This content will be an asset, not a liability.
Companies will have to find advanced ways to weed through social media for truly problematic red flags, perhaps using artificial intelligence and machine learning. But smart employers (and applicants) will find that they can learn a lot about a prospect, their personality and their skills from online personas. It will add an interesting vector to the talent search, and savvy job-seekers will realize that the social media of the future can effectively be a portfolio or showcase of their talents, skills and previous work. The article above also notes that Gen Z overwhelmingly says they consider creative exploration and expression important. I suspect employers will increasingly value this, as well.
Compensation And Benefits
In a relatively short period of time, Gen Z has begun to usher in a completely different level of comfort with what’s private or public in their personal lives — and their professional ones.
Conversely, for most traditional companies and corporations, openness around pay and benefits has not been a priority. In fact, obfuscation is often part of the strategy. But increasingly, younger generations may not accept that.
Today, Beqom reports that nearly two-thirds of Gen Zers and millennials want transparency into their CEO’s salary. The younger generations are also much more likely to share their own salary information. The children of the Information Age have duly learned that knowledge is power and are ready to face down the consequences. Corporate culture needs to get ready for that shift.
Prediction: Stark transparency around compensation and benefits will become an employee expectation.
Companies will have to get “real” about compensation. The prevailing pressure for companies to find actionable, tangible solutions for diversity and inclusion also plays into this prediction: hiding inequality in the fine print of bonus structures will no longer be an acceptable practice. This future will also demand deep reexaminations of pay structures and benefits at all levels of the company.
Unfortunately, this will be a painful process for many, and the only way to prepare is to begin working toward a compensation structure you are proud of as a business leader. A few companies are ahead of the curve. For example, Buffer’s entire company adheres to a well-thought-out and completely public compensation structure — seriously. Anyone can view their entire company’s salaries.
Payroll And Payment Expectations
My daughter recently started her first “adult” job. After her very first day, when I called to see how it went, I found she was a bit puzzled. She had excitedly checked her bank account and seen no increase. After a long laugh and a short explanation, I actually decided that her expectation made a lot of sense. Gen Z’s main form of moving money around has been instantaneous. Half of Gen Z and almost three-fourths of millennials have a money or payment app on their phone. Banking doesn’t involve banks anymore, and any waiting period feels arbitrary.
Prediction: The rise of the gig economy will change the nature of work and payment.
Combine the expectation of instantaneous gratification with the ubiquity of smart devices — and throw in an enormous change in the way people find, keep and switch jobs. The result is an irreversible shift in the way we work, and that’s before reconciling the effects automation and artificial intelligence will have on the entire landscape of work.
Major employers like Pizza Hut are already experimenting with instant pay, and it’s easy to imagine a future where developers or product managers or HR personnel or accountants can easily jump between companies on a project basis — or even work at different rates within a company in a way that has never been possible. Platformization continues to terraform the job market and make more and more short-term options available.
So, we’re looking at a new world of content, increasing demand for transparency and a completely novel expectation around how work — and payment — works. Change is going to come, and quick. Are you ready?
Photo credit: Yingchou Han via Unsplash