A son is reading a newspaper while sitting on a bench with his aging father, who is taking in a beautiful sunny day. Suddenly, the father hears a bird chirping and asks his son, “What is that?”

The son puts down his paper, clearly annoyed, and answers, “A sparrow.” This goes on a couple more times, with the son getting more irritated, and finally yelling at his father that he has already told him the answer several times.

The father abruptly gets up and walks into the house, and the son feels remorse at what he has done. The father then comes out with his diary from many years ago, sits next to his son and asks him to read it out loud. “Today my youngest son who just turned 3 was sitting with me in the park when a sparrow sat in front of us. My son asked me 21 times what it was, and I answered all 21 times ... a sparrow. I hugged him every single time he asked the same question, without getting mad, feeling affection for my little boy.”

The son then puts the diary down and hugs and kisses his father.

Talk about a generation gap.

I love to study how the various generations view the world — and, equally important, how the world views them. Now, a new group is coming of work age — Generation Z. Gen Zers, also referred to as the iGeneration, were born between 1995 and 2010, which means that the oldest are now entering the workforce.

We have heard a lot about millennials or Generation Y, people born in the early 1980s up until the mid-1990s. Millennials are not children anymore: The oldest of them are now in their mid- to late 30s. Millennials are increasingly taking leadership roles within organizations. In addition to managing their peers, millennials will soon be managing Gen Z employees.

According to analysts at Goldman Sachs, America’s youngest generation is nearly 70 million strong. This group will soon outnumber their millennial predecessors. Will millennial managers complain about Gen Zers as much as baby boomer managers complained about millennials? Only time will tell.

I like most of what I’ve read about and experienced with many Gen Zers. Full disclosure: Most of my 11 grandchildren are part of that generation.

First off, they are more connected. They grew up with the internet and have been plugged in since day one. They spend more time on their smartphones than any other generation, using them for education and entertainment. They are more likely to browse the internet than go to a movie.

But they also like to communicate face-to-face — a more personal approach. They have both physical and online friends, and many are connected around the world.

Because Gen Zers live in a high-tech world with constant updates, their attention span is shorter than millennials or other generations.

Gen Zers value ethics. They like companies that take a stand. They are well educated about brands and make sure a company’s actions match its ideals.

They like to be individualistic, are more do-it-yourself and prefer their own work spaces vs. working together in a group. They are used to having things personalized, from news reports to music playlists. They will pay more for products that highlight their individuality.

Members of Generation Z are more diverse than any other generation. They are good at multi-tasking. They are used to blending work and play, up to seven days a week. If they can log in and log out, they can work from anywhere, which is why the physical office is changing.

According to Wikipedia, Generation Z members self-identify as being loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open-minded, responsible and determined. They view their millennial peers as competitive, spontaneous and adventurous — all characteristics they do not see readily in themselves.

Perhaps the characteristics I like most about Gen Zers is that they are resourceful and entrepreneurial. High percentages want to start their own business. A Gallup study found that about eight in 10 students in grades 5 through 12 want to be their own boss rather than work for someone else. They are willing to try something and fail. Maybe Generation Z will help other generations step out of their box and see the world in a whole new way.

Mackay’s Moral: While you are busy teaching the next generation how to do things, don’t be surprised if you learn a thing or two.

 

Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail harvey@mackay.com.