This article is also published on ComputerWeekly.com.
We recently ran a Future Of Work workshop for children and young people aged 9-17 years to explore their views on tomorrow’s world, opportunities and workplaces. Are they proud of us and what we have given them?
Some of the answers were not what we wanted to hear.
The research proved that this truly is an ultra tech-savvy, digital generation with a serious screen addiction. The moment they wake up they reach for their devices, they plug in to their head phones, they check their Instagram likes.
Generation Z’s close knit relationship with tech means that they think it’s OK to be on their phones during meal times or when they’re spending time with friends and family. Their devices are almost an extension of them.
Device batteries must be fully charged and the Wi-Fi always connected or they may feel irritable and anxious. In fact, the availability of Wi-Fi is now viewed as more important than basic human needs such as food and sleep.
Many of us despair at the number of hours our children spend online. But who gave them those devices, and who pays the bills?
The uncomfortable truth is that we, their parents, are the generation who built this digital world which enables and fuels young people’s screen addiction and online culture. Their reliance on tech, automation and digital solutions has been created by us.
What will all this mean for the Future of Work? Will our children have acquired the skills they require to thrive in the workplace of today and tomorrow? Are they equipped to communicate, to negotiate or even just to listen and to empathise?
Author and generational diversity consultant Jacqueline Cripps says: “We have created a culture that fuels technology addiction amongst our younger generations. We are operating in a world that has become dependent on technology and gadgets to live our daily lives. The impact this is having on Generation Z are significant – from challenges in interpersonal relationships, to a muting of soft skills, to rising mental health issues. If we don’t find a balance between utilising the benefits of tech, and mitigating its risks, we are going to end up with a very troubled generation of young people.”
The older generations have created so many complex structures that have served us well, but will not meet the needs of our children. For example, Christina Hammond-Aziz, private sector transformation director at Rainmaker, talks about how many of the financial products that form the cornerstones of our current banking industry and every-day lives will be irrelevant for Generation Z.
“Why are we still developing pensions for a generation that may never see a retirement age and mortgages for a generation that may never own a home?” she asks.
A further learning from our Future Of Work workshop was that Generation Z is a generation of worriers. They dream of becoming famous singers, YouTubers and footballers, but are also really concerned about pollution, plastics, climate change as well as the sharp increase in violent crime. And they fear political and economical instability.
They are growing up in a period where the Brexit debate is causing uncertainty for businesses, individuals and the economy.
It’s time that we show Generation Z that we listen and that we care.
We should be investing things that will make a real difference to the futures of the younger generation. Our children want to be able to breathe cleaner air, put an end to cyberbullying and get a good quality education.
The workplaces we build for them cannot be all about technology and processes, but must have people, social values and culture at the core. Automation and digital solutions will play an important part, but in the Future Of Work people really do have to come first. Always.
I’m so sorry, Generation Z, we have let you down. Let’s put this right before it’s too late.