How will Gen Z push the boundaries of innovation in APJ?

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The ambition to become an innovation powerhouse may soon be realized for the Asia-Pacific and Japan (APJ) region as a large proportion of its Generation Z – those born between 1996 and 2010 – begin to enter the workforce and leave their digital mark on the economy. In a year from now, members of Generation Z, also known as ‘Gen Z’, born after 2001 will make up almost one-third of the world’s 7.7 billion. Home to almost 60 percent of the world’s population, APJ will soon witness its Gen Z labor pool expand significantly.

New possibilities are on the horizon for leaders looking to build truly digital organizations by tapping on the strengths of these ‘digital natives’. Gen Z’s technological adeptness is poised to become a game changer in helping APJ businesses navigate today’s disruptive business landscape and realize their true innovation potential.

What defines Gen Z?

Having grown up in the Information Era, Gen Z boasts unrivaled digital skills compared to any other generation before them. According to a 2018 Dell Technologies study on Gen Z in APJ, an overwhelming 98 percent of Gen Z were exposed to technology during their formal education, and 7 in 10 rate their technology literacy as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. This digital prowess naturally translates to a strong desire to work with cutting-edge technology and requires absolute control over daily digital tools.

In terms of workplace interaction, Gen Z notably still values the human element over digital tools. Close to three-quarters of Gen Z expect to learn from co-workers or other people on the job, and 42 percent prefer in-person communication to using the phone (25 percent) or texting (21 percent) when speaking with their team. Despite having a clear vision of the imminent human-machine partnership in the workplace, Gen Z continues to expect an open and collaborative culture – something to note for the future.

Working with Gen Z to accelerate innovation

Armed with their digital adeptness and collaborative spirit, Gen Z will be the voice of innovation and continuous improvement; they will push organizations to maximize the use of technology to achieve new levels of transformation. Businesses in APJ need to prepare themselves for this, and those that have the right foundation to fuel these bold perspectives will succeed.

Here are five ways organizations can work with Gen Z to fasten the pace of innovation – focusing on people, process, and technology:

  1. Leverage Gen Z’s technology-first mindset

Gen Z inherently views technology as an enabler, and so their arrival will profoundly impact organizations’ existing work approach. These young workers are more comfortable using digital tools to achieve business outcomes than any other generation, and they will play an important role in enabling technology adoption across the organization – a key agenda for business leaders, as revealed by a Dell EMC research on APJ businesses’ visions for 2030.

  1. Drive change across the entire organization

Gen Z thrives in a technology pervasive world, and these young workers will play a crucial role in driving the digital way of thinking and approaching tasks across all departments of their organizations. Whilst business leaders are looking to automate some areas of the business in the future, such as inventory, financial administration, and sales force productivity management, Gen Z’s digital approach will further quicken and broaden the scale of change.

  1. Facilitate employee upskilling

The ‘digital divide’ among the different generations within an organization is a worrisome issue for some business leaders. The arrival of the most tech-savvy workers yet could potentially exacerbate this problem, but the good news is Gen Z wants to share their knowledge, and organizations can use this to their advantage. Capitalizing on Gen Z’s digital adeptness and their willingness to teach – 78 percent of Gen Z are willing to become technology mentors to others on the job – allows organizations to build internal upskilling efforts through mentorship and rotation programs to narrow the various skill gaps among staff.

  1. Build a collaborative culture

Gen Z has not lost touch with human connection – they continue to value in-person communications within the workplace and learning from their peers. This provides the foundation for companies to set up complementary work teams to facilitate knowledge exchange and allow employees to develop specific skill sets.

However, close to half of Gen Z prefer to work from home, reflecting the growing trend workforce mobility. Organizations will thus need to invest in virtual collaborative work spaces, immersive tools, and flexible work environments to enable employees to better connect, collaborate, and learn in the moment.

  1. Meet new digital needs in a secure manner

APJ organizations currently face a unique set of challenges in integrating new generations into the workforce and meeting their digital needs without compromising on security. One-third of Gen Z would like to select and manage their own technology, and an overwhelming 80 percent want to combine their work technology and personal technology. A robust cyber defense covering all end-points is a must for organizations looking to offer Gen Z the freedom they desire whilst keeping careful control of their overall security posture.

As consumers, Gen Z is going to demand new levels of innovation, and as employees, they are going to enable and drive that differentiation among businesses. Their digital-first mindset, with technology as the foundation for everything they do, will transform the way organizations operate. An inclusive approach to leadership that recognizes and utilities the strengths of Gen Z will allow this region to go far in the global innovation race.

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