Canon Preps for Generation Z Workforce

By Chris Opfer

Forget millennials. Canon Inc. is already starting to think about how Generation Z is going to change workplaces.

Canon, which had $514 million in sales last year, recently completed a “futurecasting” exercise to determine what the workforce will look like in the next 10 years, Greg Ryan, vice president for corporate planning, told Bloomberg Law. The results offer some insight into the near future of work and have the imaging company shifting its focus to data and information sharing.

The research focused on Generation Z workers—those born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s. Canon found the next generation of employees are likely to value collaboration, speed, and shareability as much as the quality of what they are sharing, Ryan said. He used as an example smartphone applications that allow users to share and alter images.

“The way this workforce will work is that good enough is good enough as long as it’s right there when I need it and I can share it with everyone,” Ryan said. “I think the future workplace is definitely going have to take that into consideration.”

The company has responded to a decline in more traditional printing by shifting to software and medical device and display equipment. The Gen Z research may mean more emphasis on shareability. Ryan pointed in particular to Canon’s recent partnership with cloud content management firm Box as an effort to better capture, store, and share everything from invoice data to medical patient records.“There are a lot of knowledge workers spending a lot of time just to validate whether data coming in is right or not,” Ryan said. “The AI technology that we’re talking about does that exceptionally well, better than humans. It can find metadata and understand the context of that information.”

Future Offices

Bill Bouchey, an interior design director for architecture firm HOK who joined Ryan on a panel event on the future of work held earlier in the day, said technological advances allowing workers to collaborate from anywhere don’t necessarily mean that the office is a thing of the past.

“There’s always going to be a place where people want to come together, need to come together, or where coming together is part of what makes the work effective,” Bouchey said. Although shared working spaces like those offered by WeWork and NeueHouse are getting increased attention, new workplaces may be even less structured in the coming years, he said.

“If we’re talking about the office of the future, we have to talk about the future workforce,” Ryan said. “They live on these digital islands, so they crave human interaction.”

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