Demographer reveals the huge changes heading for employees
BY 2025, three out of 10 Aussie employees will be a member of Generation Z - and they're about to change the way we work for good.
Defined as those born between 1995 and 2009, Gen Z are now aged between nine and 23.
At the moment, they represent just 10 per cent of the working population - but as more Gen Zs come of age in the not-too-distant future, a significant shake-up of workplace culture will likely follow.
That's the opinion of demographer and social researcher Claire Madden, author of Hello Gen Z: Engaging The Generation Of Post-Millennials, who told news.com.au Gen Z's love of digital technology was one of their "defining characteristics".
"Gen Y saw the transition from paper to digital, but Gen Z's idea of an encyclopaedia is one they can contribute to - they are natural collaborators and are very comfortable with having a voice at a young age. When it comes to a workplace context, they will expect to have a voice and be heard, not just to get the job done at the bottom rung," she said.
"The biggest challenge will be the expectation gap. Baby Boomers make up a quarter of today's workforce and lots are in leadership positions. They've often worked in the same sector or even organisation for decades, worked hard and worked their way up, as has Gen X - they've done the hard yards and played by the rules and that's how they've earned their position.
"That's the challenge when Gen Z comes in and wants a flatter structure with more access to leaders, as well as being part of the creative process at a much earlier stage.
"This generation will want work to be enjoyable and it's such a strong motivator they won't stick around if there's not that level of interest."
Ms Madden said Gen Z would likely have a less linear career progression and will feel comfortable working in a range of jobs and industries over the course of their careers, as well as taking on "side hustles" such as working in the gig economy to boost their cash flow - something they'll likely do by choice as well as from necessity.
She said generally speaking, Gen Z had many admirable traits.
"They are entrepreneurial and not afraid to leave the known track and forge their own path. They're agile and adaptive, quick to transition to new platforms and have an intuitive use of technology," Ms Madden said.
But their reliance on technology also has a downside.
According to Ms Madden, members of Gen Z often have "shorter attention spans and an inability to physically sit still and pursue answers at a deeper level" as well as being "easily distracted" by their devices.
They are also less comfortable with face-to-face communication and phone calls, having grown up with emails and instant messaging.
Ms Madden also said the great Australian dream of owning your own property could finally die out as Gen Z mature.
"Due to the changing nature of work and the rise of the gig economy these young people will be juggling multiple jobs and numerous revenue streams with shorter-term contract positions, and it will have an implication on the way they can prove their earnings and get a home loan like the current situation requires," she said.
"It will be interesting to see if the way banks give out loans shifts over time or remains as something people want … and if there will be a push for Gen Z to place less emphasis on the home ownership dream as they place value on other ways of managing their life."
And she said "housing unaffordability" meant many young people saw the prospect of home ownership as "overwhelming and unattainable".
Ms Madden said Gen Z were flocking to a new category of "lifestyle spending", with things like mobile phone contracts, Netflix and Spotify subscriptions seen as necessities and not luxuries.
And she said Gen Z would likely be more stressed and anxious than previous generations thanks largely to technology - but that they would also place greater emphasis on understanding mental health and wellbeing.
Ms Madden will be a key note speaker at the Urban Development Institute of Australia's (UDIA) national congress next year.