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Generation Y

The Office Of The Future: A Gen Y's Vision And Executive Predictions

Josh Ingalls, a certified Gen Y recruiting pro (Campus Relations Consultant) for Principal Financial Group recently posted a Fistful of Talent article about the workforce of the past and what's likely to come into vogue in the future.

Josh Ingalls, a certified Gen Y recruiting pro (Campus Relations Consultant) for Principal Financial Group recently posted a Fistful of Talent article about the workforce of the past and what's likely to come into vogue in the future.

Josh wrote about walking in on a conversation among Boomers who were reminiscing about the dawn of their careers almost 25 years ago, including:

  • Ashtrays at every desk.  It didn’t matter if you smoked; you had to have an ashtray at your desk, in case a smoker stopped by because they were not to drop ashes on the floor.
  • One computer (called a terminal) on a “Lazy Susan” in the middle of 5 desks.  When you needed it you just twisted it to face you and shared it with your teammates.

Josh's post reminded me of AMC's Emmy and Golden Globe-winning series, Mad Men. Mad Men is set in the 1960s at a fictional advertising agency on Madison Avenue in New York City and depicts the changing social mores of that era. 

When you see the workplace clouded in smoke and its employees drinking on the job, with the 'skirts' working as secretaries and only Caucasian men in executive roles, you are reminded how dramatically different the world of work is today.

Josh's article goes on to predict what stories Gen Ys will be telling in 25 years. After all, advancements in technology are speeding up, not slowing down. It is very likely there will be even more drastic change in a Gen Y's lifetime than that of past generations.

Josh made the following predictions of the future at work:

· Video conferencing will dominate the interview scene. The next generation of recruiters will find it hard to believe we actually made hiring decisions based on a phone call. Video conference technology will be much less expensive and utilized by all recruiters. 

· College Career Fairs will not exist. Due to more efficient selection the utility of career fairs will fall to a point where they are no longer attended by employers. 

· Assessment use will be much more prolific. With advancement comes a drive to quantify decision making, and assessments are a great way to do this for hiring.  Employment law will eventually catch up to the fact that good assessments are much less biased than hiring managers.

· Your LinkedIn profile will have a section to upload your genetic report card. This will allow recruiters to consider your potential health care costs.

A research study released by OfficeTeam titled, Office of the Future: 2020, predicts the future office will be increasingly mobile, with technology enabling employees to perform their jobs from virtually anywhere. As a result, employees will likely be working more hours.

In addition to interviews with workplace and technology experts, futurists, and trend watchers, OfficeTeam surveyed workers and executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies. Among the predictions for 2020:

· Technology tools will provide even greater flexibility. Miniature wireless devices, WiFi, WiMax and mobile technology will continue to allow a company’s staff to work outside of the office with greater ease. Additionally, virtual environments and web-based conferencing services will provide off-site employees with real-time access to meetings, reducing the need to travel.

· Improved wireless connectivity will allow for an increasingly flexible workforce. Eighty-seven percent of executives surveyed believe telecommuting will increase in the next 10 to 15 years.

· Staff to put in more time. Forty-two percent of executives surveyed by OfficeTeam think employees will be working more hours in 10 to 15 years. Only 9 percent said they would be working fewer hours.

· Companies/employees take a new view on work-life balance. People may put in more time, but they will do so using tools that provide more control over their schedules and enable them to better balance priorities. There will be an increasingly blurred line between work and other activities–including vacation time.

If I were to predict the future, I would predict that tomorrow’s workforce will be less hierarchical and defined by roles and more about giving people ample opportunities to learn and lead and move into various roles based on their interests and strengths. I also believe our workplaces will become even more health-focused with walking workstations and environmentally-friendly practices.

With a pending Boomer retirement wave and massive influx of Generation Y – the largest generation in history– all statistics point to a workplace that will be dominated by people under the age of 40, which will redefine the workplace and work itself. It’s going to be an amazing transformation to observe, no matter what happens.

What do you think the future will bring? Please share your thoughts and ideas with our readers.

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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