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"Gen Z" in the Workplace

Leoneda Inge

North Carolina’s workforce continues to evolve as the economy evolves and digs its way out of the last recession.  The Institute for Emerging Issues at N-C State says in order to continue this positive trend, it is imperative for the state to begin strategically investing in Generation “Z.”  Most of the young people making up Generation “Z” were born in the 1990s and are approaching college age. Even though this group is the nation’s most diverse and most technologically savvy, how will they fit into the workplace of the future?

Leoneda Inge:  This year’s Emerging Issues Forum began in a game show format.  The first question:How many text messages do you think the average teenager sends each month?  The contestants were way off! (Buzzer!)  The answer is 3,339 text messages.  Question two: What is the average amount of student debt in North Carolina after college graduation? Even the Generation Z participant was a little off on this one.  It’s just about 21-thousand dollars.  A decade ago, these questions weren’t even that relevant but times have changed.  Former Governor Jim Hunt kicked off this week’s forum, “Investing in Gen Z.”

Jim Hunt:  They can be the salvation for us in terms of what they do in the future, how they do it, how they help us rejuvenate our economy.  But we’ve got to realize how they think and how they communicate and how they connect.

Two-hundred Gen Z Ambassadors attended the forum, wearing matching green t-shirts.  Enioluwafe Ojo was one of them.  She’s a freshman at N-C State.

Enioluwafe Ojo:  I’m a Genetics major and I’m really, really interested in International Health Care.  But I guess it’s kind of hard to say.  I’m just trying to keep my options open. You know.

Leoneda Inge:  Spoken like a Gen Zer.

Enioluwafe Ojo:  I would like to work in WHO, World Health Organization, but maybe I’ll just be a doctor, who knows.

Right, who knows.  Research shows that whatever these Gen Zers do, they’re not likely to stay on any given job more than four years.  Allyson Brake is an 18-year-old freshman at Campbell University.

Allyson Brake:  We always want to be invested and passionate about anything we do, and that is something that maybe the workforce isn’t really used to, about someone wanting to go into a career and being fully passionate about it all the time, want to go in and love their job everyday. Like I said earlier, we’re only in a job for four years, so we’re going to love it and then we’re going to love something else!

It’s clear this generation has lofty goals but they don’t always have a lot of patience for education and training.  They’re not all going to be the next Mark Zuckerberg.

Andrew Yang:  I’m 37 years old and I started my first company when I was 25, and it was extraordinarily difficult.

Andrew Yang is the Founder and President of Venture for America. He is using the Teach for America play-book to develop a work corps of future entrepreneurs. His non-profit matches recent college graduates with corporations for two years.

Andrew Yang:  Generation Z has a distinct profile of capabilities that the companies at large haven’t fully adapted to or vice versa, to be honest.   So it’s going to be a bit of a challenge relative to previous generations.

Some companies say they are ready!  Diane Adams is with the IT Health Care Company Allscripts.  She’s the Executive VP for Culture and Talent, she did away with the typical Human Resources title when she arrived two years ago.

Diane Adams:  We look for people that are great culture matches and actually Gen Z is a perfect match for Allscripts because we look for people that are very collaborative, people that work in teams. We look for people that are creative, that are innovative.

Sounds like I should stay in touch with these young people.

Leoneda Inge:  I’m gonna keep you in my phone.

Allyson Brake:  You should.

Leoneda Inge:  You don’t have me in your phone.

Allyson Brake:  I do, I saved your number when you texted me.

Leoneda Inge:  You put my name in there?

Allyson Brake:  I did.  So you can call me if you ever need me.

Leoneda Inge:  I may need you!

Allyson Brake:  That’s fine!

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