Christophe Cusumano, Annie Cornet – EGID Unit, Hec-Ulg (December 2012)
Re-Generation, Re-Gens, Generation Z or Generation C: a Generation made up of those born between 1987 and 1999, which currently gives us the people aged between 13 and 25. In 2010, Belgium numbered some 122,499 young people in this age group. The academic literature analysing this Generation for the moment still remains essentially American and Canadian.
In Quebec Generation C is associated with the keywords ‘Communicate, Collaborate and Create.’ Its distinctiveness lies in the fact it did not begin to socialise during the birth of Information and Communication Technologies but instead during their maturation; they have never known a world without the internet, without mobile phones and without social networks (such as Facebook). They have sometimes discovered these technologies within their families, but also with their friends, through a process of self-teaching.
Generation C is also marked by an escalation of the breakdown of the classical family model, as well as being characterised by the phenomenon of having two parents at work. It is the child ‘alone’, the latchkey kid, which has learned to cope by itself.
Income and status are no longer a priority, instead it is reconciling private life with professional life, the quality of life and enjoyment at work. The valorisation of autonomy has been rediscovered, as well as that of the short term, creative resourcefulness, the possibility of testing your own method, the diversification of tasks, the search for meaning and self-fulfilment. The Cs are looking for a co-operative, sociable and transparent hierarchical relationship, rendering the top-down and technocratic model not very legitimate and not very enticing.
The Cs naturally expect to discover within a business company the connectivity, the flexibility and organisational suppleness enabled by ICTs. Considering that the work, the collaboration with others and the exchange of information can be carried out at distance in an asynchronous manner, they are not much inclined to accept rigidity in terms of working hours and being physically present. They identify more with what they do (thus their work) than with the organisation which employs them.
Having witnessed their parents’ devotion and loyalty to the business company rewarded with being sacked, the young Cs have disengaged themselves in terms of loyalty to their employer, perceived as fickle and not very trustworthy. We should not however think that the wish for security and stability has disappeared from this generation.
They are faced with and have grown up in a world confronted with major challenges (endless local and regional wars, ecological challenges, social challenges, energy challenges, etc.) the solutions to which seem complex.
This portrait, as is the case for many descriptions which aim to present a unified version of the various Generations, is doubtless very reductive. The boundaries between this Generation’s characteristics and those of that which preceded it, Generation Y, are far from being clear-cut. In any event it enables us consider the importance of offering models of society and work organisation which have meaning for these young people, who are and will be the workers of tomorrow.
Lardellier P., (2006), Le pouce et la souris. Enquête sur la culture numérique des ados, Paris, Fayard
Pronovost G., (2006), Les technologies de l’information et de la communication dans l’univers des jeunes, in the international conference ‘Mutations des industries de la culture, de l’information et de la communication,’ La Plaine Saint-Denis, September
Roy R., (2009), Generation C – 12-24 ans- moteurs de la transformation des organisations, rapport de synthèse, décembre, CEFRIO