Gen Z, freshly armed with academic credentials and technology confidence — trademark to digital natives — are influencing employers’ technology use.
“For the most part, [we] are confident in our technical literacy and capabilities, perhaps even to a fault,” said Sean Young, a programmer and student at the University of Maryland, in an email to CIO Dive. He was born at the cusp of the Gen Z and millennial generational divide.
Nearly one-third of millennial managers strongly believe Gen Z, or those born after 1996, are more tech savvy than themselves, according to a Nintex survey of more than 500 employed and future Gen Z employees between the ages of 18 and 23.
That reckoning has lead to more than 80% of Gen Zers being asked to frequently solve tech-related problems by their manager.
“Whenever there is rapid technological change, decision makers take advice from whomever understands it,” Colin Earl, CEO of agile software company Agiloft, told CIO Dive. “When the technology is effectively new, this is necessarily the younger generation. Something very similar happened with the initial introduction of PCs.”
As digital natives, the youngest working generation can find technology that best suits its needs, according to the report. Leadership lending an ear to a younger generation is necessary for relevance and reducing IT circumvention.
“For the most part, [we] are confident in our technical literacy and capabilities, perhaps even to a fault.”
Programmer and student at the University of Maryland
The majority of decision makers, 80%, have yielded to Gen Z influence and adopted the tools suggested by the younger generation.
“Personally I have never suggested a major tool in terms of language or coding platform, but have suggested plugins or other features to use to increase productivity,” said Brandon Ferrell, a senior at University of Maryland majoring in computer science, in an email to CIO Dive. “Dark mode for Github was a hit.”
The Gen Z edge
Gen Zers are on the pursuit for instant response in technologies.
And while some members of the generation might be more aggressive in that hunt, Young maintains his deal breaker is a computer without sufficient power for programming.
“Honestly, that only applies if I am required to use a company machine, I’d be happy to use my own,” Young said. “Although it’s not typically going to be the deciding factor for me, access to any cutting edge technology is always a perk.”
Other exceptions to Young’s potential deal breakers with employers is the technology he needs to test his products.
“Almost as [the] research suggests, I would like to end up somewhere that gives more freedom to developers.”
Senior at University of Maryland majoring in computer science
Because Gen Zers are “hardwired for app efficiency,” 79% of the generation is more likely to pursue tools most effective for their work, as opposed to ones established by IT, according to the report.
Though the report suggests Gen Zers are forcing the “obsolescence” of shadow IT, Ferrell knows the allure of quicker solutions overshadow additional risk they might introduce.
His first development internship was in a larger company where “everything was very regimented and less packages were allowed, meaning it was slower as you had to build more from scratch.” His second internship was in a smaller company, allowing for more use of outside coding packages. “Whether this impacted security at all, I’m unsure, but doubtful.”
Earl echoed Ferrell’s experience saying the size of the company is likely to dictate how freely Gen Zers, and other employees, “work around the official IT stack.” Larger companies are more likely to enforce control.
However, “almost as [the] research suggests, I would like to end up somewhere that gives more freedom to developers,” said Ferrell.