Data Centers and GenZ: Prepping for a New Generation16 min read

by | Oct 23, 2019 | Blog

I just wrapped up a really amazing AFCOM Leaders Lab focusing on some of the most advanced DCIM and data center management topics. We talked about augmented reality, virtual reality, predictive and prescriptive systems, and new data-driven solutions all designed to power the data center of the future. Honestly, it was a conversation that would make pretty much anyone in the tech field geek out.

Throughout our conversation, we got to a point where we began to discuss challenges. And, very quickly, there was a chorus of agreement that good help is sometimes challenging to find. We heard of an example from an attendee who works as an electrician helping wire and design data center environments. This individual would work 6 days a week, and could work 7 if he didn’t take any breaks at all. His challenge? He couldn’t find any good help. Or, he wasn’t sure how to approach good, young, help to recruit into his organization.

This sentiment was quickly echoed both within the AFCOM group and pretty much anyone that I talk to. Here’s the thing, we’re not talking about millennials any more. After being in the spotlight and oftentimes the butt of some jokes, more than a decade later the focus has shifted.

Did You Know: The oldest GenZ will be 20 years old and entering the workforce by next year!

As a millennial who is actively involved in high school programs and within organizations that promote STEM learning and growth, I’ve been lucky enough to be involved with some bright and upcoming GenZ’ers who are ready to take on the world. When it comes to your data center and tech environment, you really need to see this group of people a bit differently. They have a different value system, different things motivate them, and this new generation is truly a digital native.

To that last point, millennials were the digital pioneers. GenZ are the real-world digital natives. Consider this, forty percent of Generation Z said that working Wi-Fi was more important to them than working bathrooms.

And, according to Pew Research, only 14 percent of U.S. adults had access to the internet in 1995, but by 2014 87 percent had access. As I mentioned, millennials were pioneers in the digital age. They witnessed the introduction and rise of social media, instant messaging, smartphones, search engines, and the mobile revolution. Generation Z did not witness these innovations but, rather, they were born into it.

To that extent, it’s important not to have any preconceived notions on how this new generation will be impacting your organization. For example, if you think you have to pepper job requirements with massive amounts of degrees and higher education, think again. Seventy-five percent of Generation Z say there are other ways of getting a good education than going to college, according to a Sparks & Honey report.

Right now, many of my millennials are questioning if their large student debt was even worth it. This is especially true considering that 44 percent of recent college grads are employed in jobs not requiring degrees. Here’s the other important point: one in eight recent college grads is unemployed.

In the tech space, I’ve seen many successful millennials be very successful with vertical or industry-specific training and certifications. Some of the best data center engineers have built amazing environments because of great mentors, good technical training, and specific certifications. To GenZ, college and higher education is no longer the clear-cut path they have to take.

GenZ – Breaking the communication paradigm

Ready for this bombshell? Generation Z would much rather talk to you in person than over a device. Yes, you read that right. Seventy-four percent of Generation Z prefer to communicate face-to-face with colleagues.

Where millennials helped pioneer digital communication (think texting, DMs, IMs, and so on), Generation Z aims to strike a balance between interpersonal and digital communications. Honestly, this is pretty exciting! This also means you’ll need to think outside the box when communicating with a new workforce that’ll be coming into your business.

The future is built on collaboration and balance

If you’re in the tech space looking for ways to fill your own employment gaps, get ready for a whole lot of new candidates that’ll be coming your way. In fact, consulting firm BridgeWorks estimates that Gen Z accounts for 61 million people in the U.S., a number that’s already larger than Generation X and two-thirds the size of the baby boomers. To really impact these entrants into the market, you’ll need to throw out preconceived notions on how to work or manage a younger generation.

One of the biggest mistakes I saw earlier in my career was how some managers attempted to manage my generation in the same fashion that they were managed and pushed to grow. The same thing goes for those millennial managers who now have to hire and train the Generation Z workforce.

Remember, this is a new generation. Different things will motivate them and the way they want to be rewarded may be quite different than what you experienced early in your career. So far, at least in my experience, working with Generation Z has required a balance between the physical and digital world. A balance that allows for interpersonal experiences while still incorporating digital solutions to make life easier.

Those technology leaders that quickly remove any preconceived notions on how to manage Generation Z and open their minds to new possibilities are the ones that’ll attract some of the best talents.

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Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch

Bill Kleyman, Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions, Switch

Industry Analyst | Board Advisory Member | Writer/Blogger/Speaker | Executive | Millennial | Techie

Bill Kleyman brings more than 15 years of experience to his role as Executive Vice President of Digital Solutions at Switch. Using the latest innovations, such as AI, machine learning, data center design, DevOps, cloud and advanced technologies, Mr. Kleyman delivers solutions to customers that help them achieve their business goals and remain competitive in their market. An active member in the technology industry, he was ranked #16 globally in the Onalytica study that reviewed the top 100 most influential individuals in the cloud landscape; and #4 in another Onalytica study that reviewed the industry’s top Data Security Experts.

Mr. Kleyman enjoys writing, blogging and educating colleagues about everything related to technology. His published and referenced work can be found on WindowsITPro, Data Center Knowledge, InformationWeek, NetworkComputing, AFCOM, TechTarget, DarkReading, Forbes, CBS Interactive, Slashdot and more.

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1 Comment

  1. Anonymous

    Nice article. But FWIW, it was GenX, not millennials who were the digital pioneers. I was banging out BASIC on a TRS80 in 1979. That’s pioneering. Gates, Wozniak, Jobs; all GenX. Millennials are just the first wave of settlers on land mapped by GenX. 😉

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