I joined the workforce slightly over two decades ago. At that time, what made us stand out was that we had gone through a different education system.
I recall older colleagues often referring to us as Hawa watu wa 8-4-4. Soon after, we were in management, and as young leaders, we started being profiled for having gone through a different education system.
Needless to say, our schooling then trained us almost in a similar way to those who came before us and who went through National Youth Service pre-university training programme. As time progressed, the workplace had the majority from the 8-4-4 education system introduced in the mid-80s.
The system thus stopped being a way of differentiating new entrants into the workforce. Today, over 90 percent of those in our workplaces are from the 8-4-4 system. An education system may not be the best way to differentiate one generation from another. The 8-4-4 mode already has three unique generations. Generation X, the Millennials, and Gen Z. It seems that generation Alpha and those after them will be in the new CBC education system.
The majority of those in the workplace today are Millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1996. They have been at the centre of technology adoption in the workplace. Those born after the millennials from the mid-to-late 1990s to early 2000s are now joining the workforce.
This unique generation that has grown up in the information and digital age seems to be presenting both opportunities and challenges in the workplace. Referred to as Generation Z, Gen-Z, iGen, centennials, or the Zoomers, this generation will soon also become the largest consumers.
At the work, Gen-Xs, who are the parents of Gen-Zs, are exiting as millennials take over. At home, most Gen-Zs have grown up in smaller families, with the internet and the smartphone, and with minimum responsibilities compared to their parents.
Zoomers like to communicate through social media and texts. They seem to spend a considerably longer periods of time on their smartphones. Their parents have also provided them with the best education possible, so most of the Zoomers are learned.
At work, most Gen-Zs are seen as being different. They are a more competitive generation than those before them. According to a Deloitte Research Report titled Welcome Gen-Z, Zoomers are said to prefer certain industries, especially those that they interact with in their personal lives.
The report further says that Zoomers will remain loyal to a company if it offers entrepreneurial opportunities, and in terms of working styles, Zoomers prefer individual tasks over team-based activities and value physical connection. The report that Zoomers are keener on ethics, practices, and social impact and embrace diversity.
They are not quick to rush for MBAs as they evaluate the cost-benefit and seek other learning chances to enhance their skills. Salary seems not to be the number one factor in deciding on a job for Gen-Z. They want interesting jobs, and they are also concerned about how their organisations are contributing to solving global challenges such as hunger.
To win the hearts of Zoomers, smart firms have no option but to seek to understand them, and their needs, and provide an inviting workplace. What is your business doing to prepare for the Zoomers?
Dr Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via Twitter @KiruthuLucy