Career Resilience

With technology and AI set to revolutionise the workplace – how will Generation Z adapt?

Gen Z – people aged under 20 in 2017 – are coming of age at a time when technology could well be a barrier to their future success.

In 2016, the World Economic Forum estimated that five million jobs in 15 major economies, including the UK, will be lost to automation by 2020, with a third of all retail jobs set to be automated by 2025. Beyond retail, from medicine, to music, to marketing, computer innovations are already demonstrating they can do jobs better, harder, faster and stronger than their human counterparts.

It’s no wonder that 45% of young Britons today believe that technology could imminently replace their job roles, according to a study by The Future Foundation and Infosys.

More worrying still, according to the report, these fears about future job security are particularly acute in the UK, where Gen Z’s confidence of having adequate skills for a successful future career are well below those of peers in emerging economies.

So how are this generation adapting to these bleak forecasts? In Britain, many have chosen to place greater pressure on themselves to improve and learn beyond the classroom – a behaviour that was dubbed the ‘Superhuman movement’ at this year’s Youth Marketing Strategy summit in London. This can be seen by the fact that 84% of 16-24s in the UK believing it is necessary to continually improve and learn new skills, in particular, coding, languages, and mental and physical resilience.

This ‘self-investment-to-survive’ mentality is symptomatic of the challenges they face, where continuous improvement – commonly known as ‘life-long learning’ – will enable adaption to new roles created by technology and AI as others become obsolete.

This individualistic approach to work marks a shift away from the mentality shared by older generations. While Millennials have championed collaboration, teamwork and togetherness, Gen Z fear that a democratic workplace could mean being lost as a piece in the puzzle. Father and son generational expert duo David and Jonah Stillman investigate this in their 2017 book ‘Gen Z @ Work: How The Next Generation is Transforming the Workplace’. The pair found that 72% of Gen Z are competitive in doing the same job, and desire honing their talents and being judged on their own merits.

We are now seeing employers that are keen to appeal to Gen Z employees, invite applicants of this generation to trade their ‘uniqueness’. Youth media brand Dazed Digital has invited job candidates to use their social influencer capital in their applications, while Penguin Random House has removed qualifications from their application process to encourage candidates to instead focus on what makes them different.

Nurturing enlightened, individualistic Gen Z workers will require employers to make fundamental changes across recruitment, management and training. If the future world of work is more fluid and independent, employers will need humans to work gracefully alongside AI, by fostering the skills computers simply cannot do.

Celebrating and investing in emotional and creative intelligence, as well as the encouragement of effective future work practices, such as managing remote workers, or boosting digital resilience skills such as concentration and productivity, will be key to appealing to Gen Z and helping them survive, as well as thrive, in an insecure world of work.