Gen Alpha – The biggest change to business in a lifetime!
From Millennials to Gen Z
Most of us have heard of the challenges of Millennials in the workplace. However, with the oldest Millennial rapidly approaching 40 (those born 1981-1996), should we be focusing on the ‘Gen Z’ population instead (those born between 1996 and 2010)? Sadly not. I am significantly concerned that many businesses are ill-prepared for the lesser-known ‘Gen Alpha.’
By the end of 2020, it is predicted that over half the U.K. workforce will be made up of Millennials, with a significant percentage also being ‘Gen Z’ employees. It’s too late to be focusing on these generations. The most significant change in modern history is on the horizon, and businesses need to be ready. The consequences of not preparing are unthinkable.
With ‘Gen Z,’ we are very aware that most of this generation are ‘Digital Natives’, a term popularised by Marc Prensky, meaning they have grown up around computers. Social media has played a fundamental part in their lives, and generally speaking, they expect employers to change for them. Simon Sinek points out, in his popular blog ‘Millennial’s in the workplace’ that a significant number of ‘Gen Z’ and Millennials feel ‘entitled,’ and this creates problems for employers. The key to integrating Millennial’s into the workforce is understanding that it’s not their fault that they think this way. It is just a bi-product of the world in which we live.
A different generation
‘Gen Alpha,’ on the other hand, is an entirely different kettle of fish. They are a generation that has been born into a world of artificial intelligence, augmented reality, intelligent automation, machine learning, and big data. Businesses, in general, need to be aware that they cannot carry on with business as usual. ‘Gen Alpha’ is the generation who are taught computer coding at primary school. They believe that owning a smartphone is a human right. ‘Gen Alpha’ will disrupt the workforce in an entirely different, and earth-shattering way, for which many businesses are completely unprepared.
What is ‘Gen Alpha’?
Gen Alpha’s are all children born from 2010 – coincidentally the same year that Apple released the iPad. Coined by sociologist, Mark McCrindle, he estimates that 2.5 million Gen Alphas are born globally every week.
Gen Alpha’s are predicted to be the wealthiest, most technologically advanced, and highly educated individuals to have existed to date.
Why ‘Gen Alpha’?
In 2014, children as young as five were being taught coding. My 2.5 year old is already playing ‘coding safari’ daily on his iPad. In February 2019, the Telegraph reported (http://LBLink.uk/telegraph – Camilla Turner – 21 February 2019) that Andreas Schleicher, director of education and skills at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, said that the skill is merely “a technique of our times” and will become irrelevant in the future. I couldn’t disagree more. I do agree that there are many programming languages, and these do indeed become obsolete. However the fundamental principles will remain current for many generations to come. Those principles will no doubt evolve as technology changes, but the core skills will prevail.
In 2018 the government pledged £78m to train up 40,000 teachers to teach computer science at every school in England. The project, led by computer maker Raspberry Pi is ensuring that children are given the best possible start in life, given the changing technological climate.
What does this mean for business?
In just six years, Gen Alphas will start to reach the working age. More importantly, they could already, at the age of 10, be within your customer/prospect base. Most of us have heard of YouTube Influencers, but were you aware that children as young as four are becoming Social Media influencers? In 2017, at the age of 6, Ryan, whose surname has been withheld to protect his privacy, was earning $11m (£8.3m) per year reviewing toys for his YouTube channel ‘Ryan ToysReview.’ As of 6 January 2020, Ryan, now eight years old, has 23.3m subscribers and has received over 35 billion views!
To quote Michael Jackson, “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself, and then make a change.” Businesses need to consider the needs and wants of this new generation, and you need to act now.
What will Gen Alphas expect?
Gen Alphas are going to expect interactive and responsive experiences in all areas of their life. This includes their approach to choosing suppliers. It’s already a well-known fact that 47% of consumers expect a website to load within 2 seconds, with 40% giving up after 3 seconds. For Gen Alphas, this percentage will only increase and expand to apply to websites, apps, phone calls, and much more.
In a recent survey by Beano Studios, it was noted that 86% of Gen Alphas enjoy being creative, and 55% enjoy making original videos. We also note that Gen Alphas have much more influence as activists, at a far younger age than ever before. Beano.com found that 40% of 6-14 years feel it’s their responsibility to save the planet.
How should businesses change?
The immediate thought is technology, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Technology will play a significant part in the cultural change. However, it’s not about giving the Gen Alphas phones, tablets, or whizzy computers – these are all expected as standard. The top employers will be those who change their systems and processes to be slick and efficient.
Gen Alphas will not be willing to work for employers who use antiquated systems. They will expect software to load and run reports instantaneously. In a Gen Alpha world, the mundane tasks will be performed by A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning.
Gen Alphas will also expect a personal assistant. They’ve had one their entire lives in the form of Alexa, Cortana, and Siri so why would they regress? Businesses will need to fully encompass the new and exciting Artificial Intelligent personal assistants on the market. They are affordable, and actually, apps such as Evie.ai are very good at scheduling appointments.
How will job roles change?
I also believe that the types of roles will need to change. With a generation full of technologically advanced creatives, businesses are going to need to review the job roles they offer. More emphasis should be placed on cyber-based technology roles to streamline your business model. This change will no doubt cause issues for some industries. For example, in accountancy, we rely heavily on bookkeeping roles to teach necessary debit and credit skills to our staff. If bookkeeping is fully automated, how will staff learn these essential skills to enable them to progress as well-rounded problem-solving accountants? I would imagine that many of you probably have similar scenarios within the industries you serve.
Many of you are probably also wondering about working hours, flexible working and home working, and you’d be right to do so. I anticipate the trend towards flexible working to continue, but I predict a decline in the number of Gen Alphas wanting to work from home. This generation will want the ability to work from anywhere, at any time, whether that be 2 am from a 24hr fast food restaurant or hotdesking in the office. Cybersecurity and cyber insurance will need to be considered by all businesses. Public WiFi is insecure, and business owners will need to work hard to remain compliant with GDPR and data protection legislation.
Embrace the change
My final point for this article is around good old fashioned red tape. Steering your business like an oil tanker, or putting obstacles in the way of change could mean the end for your business. Gen Alphas are used to the rapidly changing technology and will become increasingly frustrated by companies who take forever to change. It is expected that Gen Alphas will have the highest level of mental health issues compared to any previous generation. This is simply because of their fast-paced world and the pressures put upon them from every angle. Business leaders will need to consider health issue requirements carefully. Nimble, fast-acting, proactive business leaders will prevail.