Adapted from The Future Workplace Experience: 10 Rules For Mastering Disruption in Recruiting and Engaging Employees by Jeanne Meister and Kevin J. Mulcahy.
It’s critical to recognize the generation beyond Gen Z. This is Generation Alpha, only 7 years old in 2017 and 15 years old by 2025.
Generation Alpha members will be the most diverse of all the generations. In 2011, Generation Alpha reached a demographic milestone: there were more Generation Alpha babies born to minority families than white families in the United States. By 2020, more than 50 percent of high schoolers, the foundation of the future workforce of the 2030s, will be non-white.
In addition to being ethnically diverse, Generation Alpha members are literally growing up with a connected, interactive device in their hands and with their millennial parents chronicling their every move on social platforms like Instagram and Facebook. Even more than millennials and Gen Zers who use technology extensively, many alphas will spend the bulk of their formative years completely immersed in technology, growing up in environments where their actions and movements are quantified, and will see this as part of how they experience the world around them.
If you have not already seen the popular YouTube video A Magazine Is an IPad That Does Not Work, it is worth the 90 seconds of your time. The video shows a one-year-old girl playing with an iPad. She is then handed several magazines. She tries to turn the print pages of a magazine by touching them. Nothing happens, and she quickly returns to the iPad as she is accustomed to making something happen by her touch.
The popular YouTube video (seen nearly 5 million times) ends with this statement: “A magazine is an iPad that does not work. And it will be so for the rest of her life! Steve Jobs has coded a part of her OS (Operating System).
Members of Generation Alpha will likely enter the workplace as 15-year old interns by 2025, driven by the ambitions of their millennial parents. As they have grown up with technology built into many of their toys, from customizable robots teaching engineering concepts to mobile apps accompanying toys, we can expect this generation to be the most hyperconnected of all.
Just as IBM is using the Millennial Corps to inform the company on the needs of millennials in both the workplace and the marketplace, we will see companies tapping both Gen Z and over time even Generation Alpha to inform them on the needs and expectations these next generations will have in the workplace.
The key to navigating a workplace with multiple generations and cultures along with increasing numbers of women is to recognize that all of this adds to the diversity of thought in solving today’s pressing business issues. The opportunity for leaders is this: use workplace diversity to your advantage and build an inclusive work environment where diversity adds to innovative thinking.
Perhaps most importantly, leaders need to recognize that the age, gender, and cultural diversity of a company’s employees mirrors the diversity of its customer base. So this is not only a human resource issue; it is a business issue and an opportunity to better serve your organization’s diverse market segments.
Jeanne C. Meister is Partner, Future Workplace, a firm dedicated to re-thinking, re-imagining and re-inventing the workplace. Jeanne is the receipt of the Distinguished Contribution in Workplace Learning Award from the Association For Talent Development and she is also a Contributor to Forbes Magazine. She regularly speaks on how to prepare for the future of work.