Babyboomers, Gen X, Millennials (or Gen Y), Gen Z… Each generation of workers comes with its own letter of the alphabet. And about every generation, you can find heaps of articles, surveys, and research papers. But what comes after generation Z? Or better put, who comes after generation Z?
That’s what we’ll take a look at in this article.
First, we’ll give a short recap of generation Z and its characteristics. Then we’ll dive into who comes up after them, what we know about that generation and how you can already start preparing (slowly but surely) for their arrival in the workforce.
What is Generation Z?
Let’s quickly refresh our memories and define who we’re talking about when we say generation Z. In other words: let’s meet Generation Z.
Generation Z – often referred to as Digital Natives or the iGeneration – is the cohort that comes after generation Y, also known as the Millennials. Gen Z starts from around 1996 till 2010 which means they are currently somewhere between 9 and 23 years old.
Characteristics of Gen Z
Without generalizing too much, there are various aspects that characterize digital natives.
They speak tech
The latest apps, technology or platforms; Generation Z has no difficulty what so ever using them. This is a generation that doesn’t know a world without digital devices, the internet, and social media and it uses this kind of technology for every aspect of their everyday lives.
They value (job) security
The major economic crisis from 2008 has hit many families from the iGeneration. With this still relatively fresh in their minds, generation Z attaches great value to a certain level of security.
Sure, they would like to make a difference and have a purpose when it comes to their professional choices, but at the end of the day, they want to have a job that provides them a secure personal life.
Lately, we see research related to this in the popular press too, like in this article from the Guardian for example.
They know what they need to work on
They may be more tech savvy than any other generation of the workforce, but generation Z knows it has weaknesses too.
Almost 40% of digital natives are concerned about their possible lack of people skills and their ability to build lasting, interpersonal relationships. Other fears are related to their communication skills and a potential cognitive skill gap.
What comes after Generation Z: Say hi to the Alphas
The alphabet ends after Z. So then, what comes next? Generation Alpha, as it turns out, an idea that first came from award-winning social researcher and best-selling author Mark McCrindle.
What is generation Alpha?
According to McCrindle, everyone born between 2011 and 2025 falls into the Alpha category. Fun fact: by 2025, Generation Alpha is expected to be the wealthiest, most educated and technologically literate generation in history.
Characteristics of Generation Alpha
Despite the fact that members of Generation Alpha are still very young – the oldest Alphas currently being only 9 years old – we already know certain elements that characterize this age group.
They are immersed in technology
Yes, Generation Z is tech-savvy, but Alphas will spend the biggest part of their formative years totally immersed in technology.
As Millennial children, many Alphas will already have a digital footprint before they even know what that means; think for instance of celebrity children like the British Prince George who already has an Instagram account managed by his parents (or probably his parents’ social media team) .
They learn differently
Unsurprisingly, the rise of technology will cause a shift in the way children are learning. Teaching methods will move from a structured, often auditory approach to a more visual and interactive way of educating.
The emphasis will be on problem-solving skills and peer-to-peer learning experiences and so-called connected classrooms will become the new normal.
Of course, tablets such as iPads will increasingly be used to create projects and share work with both teachers and classmates.
They are used to an excellent online user experience
This is something that stems from the above; as they have been exposed to different digital platforms pretty much form the moment they were born, Alphas don’t know any better than to expect a seamless, personalized online experience, including cutting-edge ways to interact and communicate.
They are more inclusive & super aware of (public) image
In fairness, these are two things in which Gen Z (and therefore not the Alphas) differs from previous generations. But they are trends, if we can call them that, which we could very well see – perhaps in an even more explicit way – in those who come after Generation Z.
Why does it matter for organizations and HR?
Granted, it will still be a while before we’ll see Generation Alpha entering the global workforce. After all, the oldest members of this age group are currently not even in high school yet. However, the way they already impact the consumer market tells us a lot about how they will influence the world of work.
Businesses are starting to notice the influence of the Alphas on their customers (often the Millennial parents) and their customer behaviors and buying habits, mainly in three key areas:
The way customers buy from businesses has already changed significantly. But the extension of how companies deliver – and more importantly how they can deliver quickly – will continue to change.
#2. The Environmental impact of what they do
The questions Alphas will ask increasingly – in particular when they’ll start working for an organization or when they’re buying from it – are what is the environmental impact of your activities and what are you doing about it?
Businesses will need to have statements and policies in place on their website and in the way they run their operation showing people how they are dealing with this.
This is something that already is a challenge for many organizations today and it’s an issue that will become even more important over the next years because of this growing (hyper) awareness from customers (and candidates).
#3. The way they interact with and develop brands
This is about the longevity of the brand. Alphas have quite a short brand affiliation – about 4 years before they want to move on to new brands and new ideas.
In other words: businesses will have to innovate in order to move in line with their clients’ expectations.
Check out the below video, ‘What does the future hold for Generation Alpha’, from Grant Thornton for a full explanation.
How can you prepare for Generation Alpha?
Looking at the characteristics of Generation Alpha and the ways they already impact the consumer market, we can distinguish several areas in which organizations can start preparing for their future arrival:
Obviously. More than any other generation, Alphas will expect a stellar user experience and nothing less. After all, this is what they are used to not only from a consumer perspective, but also from their school years.
It’s only natural for them to expect the same thing from their future employer.
Organizations, therefore, will need to continue to think of their employees as customers, they will need to keep innovating and delivering the technological capabilities that come with this.
#2. Societal impact & purpose
This is a development that we’ve seen for several years now. The (positive) impact organizations have on society and what it is that drives them, however, are going to be increasingly important for Generation Alpha.
Organizations, if they haven’t done so yet, will need to start thinking of their purpose and how this can be caught into what the business delivers to its clients if they want to be appealing for future Alpha candidates.
#3. Employer brand and the Employee Value Proposition (EVP)
As we’ve seen above, Alphas tend to have quite a short brand affiliation. This may hold true for your organization as an employer – and by extension, your Employer Brand – too.
In other words: it’s time to start giving some serious thought to your Employer Branding and EVP.
Elements to take into consideration regarding Generation Alpha and your Employer Brand are:
- Your organization’s purpose and its impact on the wider society
- Shared ownership; the fact that people increasingly want to share the responsibility of delivering the company’s targets and also the rewards
- Social mobility; a focus on diversity and inclusion policies to attract people from all backgrounds.
Check out a second video from Grant Thornton to see how they are preparing their organization for Generation Alpha.
On a final note
Next time someone asks you what comes after Generation Z, you’ll know what to say.
An age group that will have a digital footprint before they’ll actually have left a physical footprint.
A generation that is already impacting the consumer market through its Millennial parents and a cohort that will attach great importance to high-level technology and the environmental and societal impact of their behaviors.
And while their arrival on the job market is still pretty far away, if you’re thinking about future-proofing your organization and the future of work, you need to start preparing for Generation Alpha too.
Subscribe to stay up-to-date.