Generation Z (Gen Zers)* are often perceived and managed wrongly by CIOs, and led as if they were Millennials. However, the behavioural traits and beliefs of Gen Zers are closer to those of Baby Boomers and Generation X (Gen Xers) than Millennials. If heard and understood properly, Gen Zers will help accelerate digital business transformation, even more than Millennials, according to Gartner, Inc.

“Although they are called the ‘post-millennial generation’, Gen Zers have little in common with Millennials. CIOs cannot lead them in the same way they lead Millennials,” said Daniel Sanchez Reina, senior research director at Gartner.

Gen Zers don’t need to be trained to “think digital,” and are the best positioned generation to anticipate the needs of constituents and consumers in a digital society. “They are positioned well to judge the potential value of forthcoming digital products and services,” added Mr Sanchez Reina. 

Gartner predicts that, through 2025, Gen Zers will be best able to anticipate digital capabilities that will be valued by our digital society. “In their quest for digital talent, CIOs need to master leadership of Gen Z’s culture and people,” said Mr Sanchez Reina. “CIOs need to get to know them and understand their values and relationship patterns in the workplace. They also need to recognise that they need to lead them differently than previous generations to foster a cohesive workplace.”

Analysts discussed how the digital workforce requires changes to leadership and culture during Gartner IT Symposium/Xpo, which is taking place here through Thursday.

Some C-level executives have already noticed a difference when working with Gen Zers. For example, a CIO of a European bank said that they ask questions openly — they may inquire, for example, what they will learn from their superiors — and are more direct than previous generations. A chief human resources officer (CHRO) of a telecom company said that Gen Zers are a 100% technological generation with  infinite confidence in their capacity, and that they are autonomous, willing to work hard, assertive and much more demanding. 

Socializing at Work

Gen Zers prefer having their own workspace than sharing it with someone else. The intimate relationship they have with their devices makes them less social than Millennials.

Gen Zers want to know what their contribution to the company will be from the outset, because they want to add value straightaway and make a difference. Gen Zers value their time greatly and want to know how they will be rewarded. Millennials assume they will be promoted or at least increase their salary by continuously working. Gen Zers are pragmatic and want to be made aware of specific schemes, such as healthcare, retirement plans and long-term practical benefits; in this respect, they are similar to Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. 

Gen Zers Are Role Hoppers

Gen Zers often plan their career from the very beginning and devote time to things to things that enable skill development and supplement their career vision.

Unlike Millennials and despite having high ambitions for personal growth, Gen Zers are not job hoppers — they are role hoppers and natural entrepreneurs. “They favour the idea of developing skills, welcome additional training and are more inclined to build a career at one company, rather than hop from one employer to another,” said Mr Sanchez Reina.

Given that Gen Zers want to be versatile (as opposed to Millennials who prefer to be specialists), CIOs need to encourage them to explore a variety of career trajectories that go beyond the traditional scope. “CIOs must become mentor leaders who can teach practical skills and demonstrate behaviours, as opposed to coach leaders who can make people’s potential emerge through active listening and incisive questioning,” advised Mr Sanchez Reina. “Millennials prefer a coach leader, whereas Gen Zers expect to be recognised and rewarded for their knowledge, not their potential.”