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Generation C And The Future of Work

Generation C and technology will transform business and the workplace

Generation C is redefining the nature of traditional marketing and customer service while coincidentally, technological innovations are redefining careers and the workplace.

Generation C can be described as the current 18 to 34 year olds. The “C” stands for connected. They rule social media, online video, smart phones, tablets and TV viewership. They have a passion for engagement, creativity, connection, contribution and self-directed consumption. And they measure the importance of their personal and work worlds by experiences that answer the question “how will this feel?”

Brian Solis, the author of The End of Business As Usual: Rewire the Way Your Work To Succeed in the Consumer Revolution and What’s The Future of Business? Changing The Way Businesses Create Experiences, says this about Generation C: “Their brains are wired differently…we complain about privacy in social networks. They’ve mastered it. We don’t get why people share as much online. They’ve created incredible filters to sort through the noise. We use Google to find information but they go to trusted networks and YouTube videos to make decisions. We watch TV on televisions. They watch TV on tablets and smartphones.”

How will this impact business? Solis cites a report by Google Insights shows today’s shoppers now rely on over 10 sources when making purchase decisions. This is twice as many as the previous year. Solis contends that all industries are moving toward a place where people rely on the Internet to get information, and create a new epicenter of influence which will claim every moment of truth, rich with shared experiences that populate YouTube, blogs, review sites, communities and apps.” Shareable experiences will be the core of consumer transactions.

Dana Rousmaniere, who The Wall Street Journal calls “one of the leading media-futurists in the world,” argues in the Harvard Business Review Blog, that by 2020 marketing will be “personalized, customized and adapted to what I have expressed as my wishes or opt-ins—which essentially means advertising becomes content…we’ll be paying with our data—bartering a bit of our personal information in return to the use of platforms and services.” Customers will be forming relationships with brands based on trust, and if a company breaks that trust, it will be very quickly viral and very quickly over, he says.

Rousmaniere goes on to argue that the reason to buy will be socially motivated, and businesses will be focused on predicting how to adjust their products and services based on an emotional interaction with customers in real time.

How will these business developments interact with technological innovation, which in turn will affect jobs in the future? New technology will eradicate some jobs, change others and create new categories of employment according to Ben Shiller writing in Fast Company. He outlines examples of jobs in the near future: digital death manager, un-schooling counselor, 3-D printing handyman, digital detox specialist, microbial balancer and urban shepherd.

These predictions are echoed in The Future Work Skills 2020 report by the Institute for the Future for the University of Phoenix Research Institute which predicts how smart machines and new media will reshape how we think about work and the skills needed for it. The report observes that because the number of people in North America over the age of 60 will increase by 70%; a major shift in the workplace will be a rearrangement of our approach to careers ,family life and education. Aging individuals will increase opportunities, products and redirect services to accommodate healthy and active senior years. New smart machines will enter offices, factories and homes in numbers never seen before.

But most of the jobs related to those machines will be automated and carried out by robots, not people. Recently speaking at  Washington D.C. think tank, The American Enterprise Institute, Bill Gates said that within 20 years many jobs (including some in current professions as such as accounting and nursing) will be replaced by software automation (“bots,” in tech slang) and that most businesses and governments are not prepared for the subsequent impact. His remarks reflect  similar prediction by The Economist.

The consultancy firm, Booz&Company published a report which examined the rise of Generation C and the Workworld of 2020. Among the report’s conclusions were the following:

  • In the face of declining revenues from traditional sources, the challenge for communication and technology industries will be to abandon successful but outdated business models and refocus on what it takes to survive in a Generation C environment;
  • Business and personal activities will mingle seamlessness;
  • Social collaboration networks will proliferate and expand, impacting both business and personal lives;
  • The Era of the SmartCloud will be succeeded by the Era of the Sensor Economy and the Era of the Internet of Things, all fueled by new technologies which are customer-centric.

These business and technology developments will clearly reshape the kinds of jobs in demand which will significantly impact the younger generations. The Future of Workskills report argues that in the next decade, individuals will need to demonstrate adaptability and flexibility to rapidly changing work environments and become lifelong learners.

We'll also see a focus on critical thinking skills, and a emphasis on soft skills such as interpersonal skills and collaboration which will be valued more than pure technical skills. A revised and redefined role for Human Resources in organizations will be critical, by developing a mindset to hire people for positions that do not even exist today; and helping us navigate a collaborative economy.

Ray Williams is the author of Breaking Bad Habits and The Leadership Edge.

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