A Father-Son Team Offers 4 Tips for Working with Gen Z [video]

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David and Jonah Stillman help us get to know Gen Z.

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Narrator: To make higher education sustainable, we must understand the incoming generations. It's true that we're serving more and different generations than ever. And one sector that's often misunderstood is Generation Z. David Stillman, who spoke at the recent Educause Annual Conference, is the co-author of "Gen Z @ Work: "How The Next Generation Is Transforming The Workplace." He wrote the book with his Generation Z son, Jonah Stillman. A conversation with the Stillmans revealed four things we should know about Gen Z. Number one, students in Gen Z are the first digital natives.

David Stillman: What you'll obviously see is a comfort level with technology, the younger you go. And what we found with Gen Z, there really was a difference between the rest of us being Traditionalists, Boomers, Xers, Millennials, we were truly digital pioneers. We really had to fight for technology. So I remember for my generation, we were really fighting hard for bosses and leaders to give us access to the internet. We really had to fight hard and pioneer that. Millennials it was around social media. Where you see a big change between not just Millennials and Gen Z, but all of us and Gen Z, is this generation is the first generation of digital natives. So all the things that we pioneered for, they've never known a world without. So while the rest of us really fought to accept technology, this generation just expects technology for every solution.

Jonah Stillman: We've never had to learn to accept technology, we expect it to do everything, so there's no learning curve. It's not even second nature to us, it's simply part of who we are. It's our DNA makeup that we know how to use technology. So we will likely drive the needle when it comes to innovation and a lot of tech solutions.

Narrator: Number two, students in Gen Z are not as dazzled by technology.

Jonah: We don't get excited about technology like the other generations. I mean, 'cause we've always known a world with it. What we're starting to see is that we just look at how sophisticated it is. So if it's a new device, a new service, what we look at is how well does it work. Is it making something easier and do I enjoy it? And that's what we look at instead of how cool is it or does it dazzle.

Narrator: Number three, students in Gen Z are more competitive.

David: The Boomers love this generation. Super competitive generation. You have 80 million. You didn't have technology or opportunity like the rest so once you were in a company, you had to fight hard to climb to the top. A lot of internal politics, "that's the way it's always been done." You were sort of, you know. A lot of people would say these victims of their jobs, and all but they didn't have a choice. Well, we're seeing a lot of this generation, while they have more options and stuff, they still have this, "the best rise to the top, "I'm gonna, you know, I don't necessarily want "to collaborate 'cause I want your job." So it's a little bit more cut-throat, I would say. But at the same time, I think Boomers are liking the fact that, "Wow, a little less focus on getting along, "and a little bit more focus on some results." And Boomers like that.

Jonah: When you're shaped by many different things, compared to the Millennials, things like the 2009 recession, post 9/11, our parents being much more realistic with us. So some of the biggest differences between Gen Z and Millennials is that we're entering the workplace with much more realistic goals around our careers, what we can do in how long, et cetera. We are much more competitive than the Millennials. Millennials are known for collaboration, we are much more competitive so there will likely be an area where we clash. But all around, we are very, indeed very different than Millennials.

Narrator: And number four, students in Gen Z are learning from previous generations.

Jonah: I think that as much as the workplace in older generations have to learn from us, we have as much if not more to learn from all of them. And that can range from anything from corporate culture and navigating the workplace, professional development, mentorship, all of the above. In no way do I think that it should be a situation where it's, "Out with the old, in with the new. "Change everything, here comes Gen Z." 'Cause it's not how it works. I think it's about picking and choosing strategies that works specifically for your environment to adapt to a generation that is looking for innovation and change. And naturally, we are pretty good at it, but at the same time, there's five generations in the workplace, so everybody has to be happy and work effectively. So it's about picking and choosing what works for everybody individually.

David: And I will say this is a generation that's been told, "You start at the bottom and you work your way up." So they sort of come into the workplace knowing that they need those above them to help get there. So they're very aware and respect the need of the older generations and they've learned a lot from them, which is great.

Narrator: Students in Gen Z are the first digital natives, are not as dazzled by technology, are more competitive, and are learning from previous generations.

Jonah: So often when a new generation that's very progressive and wants to make change and is excited to innovate shows up, and that's not even just with Gen Z. It happened with the Millennials. We oftentimes go right to the place of deciding who is right, who is wrong, who did it better or worse, instead of just embracing the fact that each generation's gonna bring a unique skillset and value add to the workplace. Yes, there will be struggles, but instead of going to that place of deciding who's right or wrong, just embrace that everybody's different and that's when you really can tap into working with all the generations.