Generation Z and Change

When working through major organizational change, barely a blip on anyone’s radar is Generation Z.

The oldest of this generation (born between 1999 and 2010) is just now entering the workforce, so it seems unnecessary to worry about whether they can let go of a business’ old way of doing things. However, it would be foolish not to consider their ability to unlock the positive potential of implementing continuous improvement initiatives well past the completion of a major project.

In previous posts, we have discussed the change management strategies associated with four other generations of employees as it relates to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) implementation. Generation Z represents one of the smallest bands of employees you have, but over the next decade, it will be your fastest-growing group and will occupy many of the front-line and support positions that keep a company moving forward.

In the short term, it’s not unusual to be concerned about whether they can handle change. After all, there aren’t that many of them, they occupy jobs where employees are easily replaceable, and as a result, they haven’t built much credibility to offer a voice to their concerns. In the here and now, that’s not a resume for a great asset. So with this group, you should look more toward the future.

They’re Still in Learning Mode

Anyone you’ve hired recently who just finished figuring out your current system is going to be naturally frustrated at the prospect of learning yet a new system. Generation Z will be less frustrated in that they’re not far removed from their formal education and are still in rapid learning mode. On top of that, consider the relief they might feel when a new ERP essentially levels the playing field inside the building.

Suddenly, many of their older coworkers are feeling as awkward as they are. If your core team handles this situation the right way, it is an opportunity for generations to bond and exchange knowledge across generations that will ultimately benefit the company.

Tech is The Norm, Not The Exception

Generation X grew up during the proliferation of gaming platforms and early versions of the personal computer, and they made their parents feel dumb with how quickly they adopted the technology and ferreted out the nuances of the programs. Millennials did the same as they grew up with the Microsoft suite of products as common tools.

Now consider Generation Z.

They’ve been putting together PowerPoint slides since elementary school and have easily adapted to newer platforms such as the Google Suite of products and multitudes of apps. While Generation X might point at their smartphone and think of it as a cell phone with extra capabilities, Generation Z looks at the same device as a hand-held information processing device that opens up a window to the world and as a side benefit allows you to speak directly with other people (though why do that when you can text?).

If you want to get the most out of your new ERP, then you need to find a way to give Generation Z free rein to explore. Ideally, you want all of your employees to look for better ways to work, but this is the generation that will take the greatest advantage of it. As you’re setting up your ERP, pay attention to your company processes for sharing knowledge. Once you have a good process in place, make sure Generation Z knows how to make good use of it.

Channel Their Social Behavior

Sharing information is what they’re primed to do. They start with the mindset of transparency. Building on the previous idea of setting up continuous improvement protocols, consider internal message boards and training wikis as tools to have so that employees can talk about things they’ve discovered within the system or collaborate on troubleshooting. Several ERP vendors are setting these up among their customers. It could be that your Generation Z employees are among the most apt to be able to establish internal social media platforms for your business and encourage coworkers to make use of it.

The bottom line is that you should start preparing for Generation Z to be a major force in your business over the next decade. The faster you can reap the benefits of their imaginations and tech-savviness, the quicker you will transform your youngest employees into unique company assets.

This post wraps up our series on generations and change. Stay tuned for a full summary download available in the blog.