An (in)convenient truth: Gen Z and the culture of instant gratification

Gen X grew up with fast food. Millennials enjoyed fast entertainment.

For Generation Z, it’s instant everything—instant information, instant communication, and above all instant gratification.

With 2.25 billion members roaming the globe, the massive generation born between 1995 and 2010 comprises a quarter of the U.S. population, outnumbering both Millennials and Baby Boomers. By 2020, one in five of your employees will likely belong to Gen Z.

For enterprises seeking a competitive foothold, adopting technology that supports and empowers this fast-paced generation will pay dividends in improved productivity, increased engagement, and reduced costs. Companies often see a return on investment from enterprise technology within 12 to 18 months. The key is to give these young employees what they seek most in all areas of their lives: convenience.

Gen Z consumes more convenience items than any other generation, viewing them as necessities rather than luxuries. It’s not that they’re lazy. They simply see convenience as the driver of efficiency—and technology as the vehicle that will get them there.

Much of the demand for convenience stems from the fact that nearly half of Gen Zers are true digital natives. Having grown up with a smartphone in hand, they’re connected more than 10 hours a day and receive more than 3,000 texts a month. They’ve never known a world without Google, Facebook, or high-speed internet. 

“They’ve grown up with constant streams of data and instant access to information,” says Entrepreneur. “Instant gratification is their modus operandi.”

To tap into the immense potential of this digitally gifted workforce, enterprises need to understand a few things about Gen Z.

They consume info at mind-boggling speeds.

After growing up in a world of infinite options and limited time, Gen Z employees consume information incredibly quickly. They multitask across five screens every day and communicate in rapid-fire banter. 

Information bombardment has left them with an attention span of just 8.25 seconds (less than a goldfish), prompting analysts to describe them as impatient, distracted, and overwhelmed. You can judge them for it, but Fast Company prefers to characterize their short attention span as a “highly evolved eight-second filter.” With endless information at their fingertips, they’re experts at swiftly sorting, assessing, and filtering enormous amounts of content.

“This is a world of emojis and six-second Vine videos,” says Project Insider. “This generation consumes information instantaneously and loses interest just as fast.”

Key takeaway: Your ability to get the most out of Gen Z employees hinges on your ability to communicate in the same instantaneous bursts they’re used to.

They demand simplicity.

The downside of a short attention span is that young workers can easily become distracted and overwhelmed. To meet their needs, enterprise apps need to be clean, uncluttered, and optimized to the device as well as to the task at hand, says UX consultant David McGrath.

“These employees have grown up with apps that are designed for convenience and simplicity,” adds business leader Adam Dolby. “Ideally, you want to make accessing enterprise IT apps as simple as accessing Snapchat.”

Key takeaway: Gen Z employees are likely to abandon enterprise apps that are complex, clunky, and hard to use.

They’re self-reliant.

Members of Gen Z grew up watching their parents book their own vacations, shop for homes, and file their own taxes online. They can learn to play an instrument without a music teacher, troubleshoot a computer problem without an IT professional, and look up virtually any piece of information without a librarian.

“This ability to find whatever they want, when they want it, and often without the help of intermediaries, has made Gen Z more independent and self-directed than previous generations,” says Entrepreneur

Key takeaway: If you are able to implement technology that helps Gen Z workers get past systems that prevent information from being found, they will be more empowered, engaged, and happy. 

They don’t like waiting.

Self-reliance and a short attention span have also made Gen Z impatient. Where previous generations were used to waiting 10 minutes for their PC to boot, these employees don’t like waiting for answers (even from management) anymore than they like waiting in line. And they especially hate waiting for an app to load.

“This generation has a need for speed and expects technology to work at the click of a button or the tap of a screen,” says Information Age. Eight in 10 expect mobile apps to transact in three seconds or less—and it’s no wonder, considering they switch between devices and platforms 27 times an hour.

Key takeaway: Gen Z works in real time and expects workplace technology that can keep up as they move from screen to screen.

They want customization without effort. 

Today’s consumer apps provide customized experiences that are predetermined based on previous behavior. Members of Gen Z are used to technology that automatically tailors itself to their preferences, without any action required on their part.

The good news is that most enterprises are fully capable of offering these types of user experiences. Organizations already hold more than 80 percent of the information needed to predict a user’s technology and information needs. 

Key takeaway: To engage Gen Z workers, enterprise apps need to catch up with consumer apps and start providing personalized experiences.

Businesses that focus on giving Gen Zers the convenience they crave will get the most value out of the next generation of employees and business leaders. Those that don’t will likely struggle to attract and retain fresh talent.

“Gen Z is incredibly adept at making the most of new digital technologies,” says Brian Kracik, marketing director of cloud solutions at Oracle. “But companies will need to tie these IT assets together in a way that empowers employees to work in innovative ways.”

Are you looking to engage the incoming Gen Z workforce? Find out how Sapho can help!

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Natalie Lambert is the Vice President of Marketing at Sapho. She joins from Citrix where she held multiple product marketing leadership positions. Before that, Natalie was a principal analyst at Forrester Research where she was the leading expert on end user computing.

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