Are You Prepared for Generation Z in the Workplace?

A Gen Z'er plays with virtual reality.

What's next for Generation Z in the workplace? A finance leader's guide for jobs that don't (yet) exist.

It's coming: Generation Z in the workplace. Older members of this tech-native group have already started their careers while school-age Gen Zers are learning new skills for jobs that don't yet exist. For finance leaders this creates a challenge — how can they predict what jobs the organization will require in five years? A decade? How do they create new positions, and what's the best way to phase out existing jobs that are no longer relevant? Here's a crash course on predicting (and managing) the future of workplace staffing.

The Only Constant Is Change

As noted by the World Economic Forum, jobs like App Developer, Social Media Manager and YouTube Content Creator didn't exist in the early 21st century. Now, all are viable ways to make a living — and the first two are practically essential for corporate success in global markets. According to Business Insider, meanwhile, some jobs are in decline: Switchboard operators are being phased out in favor of digital and automated services with a projected 33 percent employment decrease by 2024, while accounting clerks and bank tellers will likely see an 8 percent reduction in available positions by 2024.

The result? Finance leaders must assume the trend will continue. World Economic Forum suggests that 65 percent of children in primary school right now will end up performing new job types that don't yet exist. While it's impossible to predict exactly what new positions will look like — the impact of social media was consistently downplayed until it became a "must-have" foundation for corporate success — good bets for future career tracks include specializations in robotics, drone development and exploration and highly specialized product customization. For example, Stem Jobs suggests that advancements in medical technology will spur the rise of custom-designed organs and other medical necessities.

Future Perfect?

Preparing for the next wave of Gen Z in the workplace requires three key components: Determining the scope and budget of new positions, integrating these positions into current workplace culture and effectively phasing out current positions that are no longer relevant.

1. Determining Scope and Budget

This is where "best guess" predictions come into play. Any discussion of new positions should include HR and finance leaders, IT experts and C-suite executives. Using current industry trends, identify the most likely and lowest-risk new position, then budget according to industry standards. For example, health care firms are well-served making room for Internet of Things (IoT) experts who can develop wearable apps and ensure devices are equipped with advanced security. Base compensation on current comparables and then adjust as the roster fills out and other firms start hiring for similar positions.

2. Integrating New Positions

Arguably the most difficult of these steps, finance leaders must effectively integrate new positions with existing corporate culture. Here, the best bet is clearly identifying the scope and responsibilities of the new position to make it clear exactly where robotic architects or automation specialists fit into corporate strategy. In addition, make sure that everyone involved — from front-line staff to middle managers to new hires — understands where these positions fit in the overall corporate hierarchy.

3. Phasing out

Consider this scenario: Thanks to automation and payroll technologies, a firm no longer needs their bookkeeping staff. Long lead times and solid severance packages help ease the transition, but this only solves the administration side of the equation. Here's why — staff are more than simply their job description. No matter how clear-cut the expectation or iron-clad the scope, employees inevitably end up taking on tasks outside their area of expertise or beyond basic job requirements to help the business succeed. As a result, cutting positions because they're no longer needed is different than reducing staff. To ensure minimal disruption, take the time to roll in all existing job functions — official or not — into new positions or spread them among other current employees.

No one can predict the future of Generation Z in the workplace. But finance leaders can help control the costs of change by tracking current trends to determine likely new positions, effectively integrating new hires in new roles and ensuring that phased-out positions include the shift of all existing responsibilities.