For the past decade, there has been a lot of focus on the Millennials and how their generation differs from those that come before them. If you are fatigued by the articles, conversations and focus on how different the Millennial generation is, I have good news. There is a brand new generation to focus on and learn about — Generation Z!
As Millennials started entering the workforce, it became paramount for employers and businesses to learn more about the generation to be able to connect with them, meet their needs and stay relevant. The same will be true as Generation Z is now coming of age. Learning about the key traits that define Gen Z will be important for you to prepare your business, adjust leadership styles, and adapt recruiting efforts and communication styles to engage with this generation.
Generation Z (also known as the iGeneration or Centennials), is made up of those born from about 1996 to 2010 (currently ages 7 to 22). This generation makes up over 25 percent of the United States population, and dethrones the Millennials from being the largest generation. Gen Z already contributes an estimated $44 billion to the American economy and heavily influences their parents’ spending.
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up completely online. They do not know a world where the internet did not exist. In fact, most of this generation never experienced a dial-up internet connection. Due to this, Gen Z is used to having rapid access to information, at their fingertips, all the time. With this integration of technology, studies show that Gen Z spends approximately 75 percent of their free time online. While technology and information access is a big focus point, other key influences for Gen Z include growing up during the Great Recession, and living in a world where terrorist attacks are common (the September 11 attacks are a historical event for this generation).
Many are quick to assume that Gen Z is simply the Millennials on steroids, but there are some key traits that differentiate Gen Z. However, before we dive in to those attributes, I must provide a disclaimer. These traits are high level attributes that have been found in the initial studies of this generation and will not apply to every Gen Z’er, similar to the way that the traits of Millennials do not apply to every person in that generation. In short, they can be useful in trying to learn about and understand the next generation, but we have to be careful with stereotypes since they do not apply to every individual.
Emerging Traits of Gen Z
Impatient – this will be one of the seemingly negative traits but there is an upside. Gen Z is accustomed to instant feedback and continuous updates. Due to this, Gen Z can process information faster than other generations; however their attention spans may also be lower. They are used to multi-tasking and viewing multiple screens (phone and computer, TV and tablet, etc.) all at once.
Engaging/Participatory – Gen Z grew up online and commonly connects with people via facetime calls, social media, apps and the like. They engage and connect with others, however they are more likely to share one-on-one and use private communication rather than widely broadcasting messages.
Quality of Product – Gen Z is focused on quality of product and obtaining the best price. They are more likely to have fully researched a product online before going into a physical store. This will challenge traditional retailing as this generation continues to increase its spending power.
Risk Averse & Savers – many Gen Z children watched their parents struggle through the recession and due to this are more likely to save their money and clip coupons than the Millennial generation before them.
Pragmatic – tying back to the recession and terrorism as influences on Gen Z, it has been found that this generation is less idealistic and more practical than the Millennials that precede them.
Entrepreneurial/Experimental – entrepreneurs are the new rock stars for Generation Z. Over 72 percent of teens say they want to start a business someday and the fact that we continue to push forward into a highly networked and high-tech world has more of this generation acting and thinking as entrepreneurs.
Images Over Words – it is likely that you have noticed that images are increasingly replacing words. From the emoticons that appear in our text and email messages, to the popular social media platforms of Instagram, Snapchat, etc. – images are increasingly becoming the preferred communication tool.
Education & Learning – a large trend that is gaining more momentum with Gen Z is a move away from formal learning environments and a push toward less formal learning opportunities. An increasing number of Gen Zers opt out of expensive college education in favor of internships and apprenticeships that will allow them to learn life skills quickly and enter the workforce earlier. They have a large focus on mentor relationships but view it as a two-way street where they also will reverse-mentor and expect to be both the student and the teacher.
Every generation brings new challenges and opportunities. The coming of age and entry of Gen Z into the workforce will provide new challenges and opportunities for employers, retailers and the world at large. The strategies and approaches that have previously been developed will need to shift to meet the ever-changing needs and demands of this generation and those that follow. The research and learning around Gen Z and how they will impact the world is just beginning. As we learn more, there will be yet another shift in products, services and marketing to fit the temperament of this latest generation in an effort to best connect and work alongside each other.
Issues and challenges continue to grow both inside and outside of agriculture — we need to focus on the strengths that we each bring rather than differences. Work across generations to unlock the potential to address and solve problems and recognize that every generation brings something important and necessary to the world.
Beall, George. (2016, November 5). 8 Key Differences between Gen Z and Millennials. Hufﬁngton Post. Retrieved from https://www.hufﬁngtonpost.com
Dorsey, Jason. (2015, November 15). TEDx Talk: What do we know about the Generation after Millennials? Retrieved from http://jasondorsey.com
EntreLeadership Team. (2017, July 31). #215: Dr. Tim Elmore—Meet Generation Z. EntreLeadership. Retrieved from https://www.entreleadership.com
Mims, Shaquayla. (2017, May 22). Get ready for Gen Z. National Retail Federation. Retrieved from https://nrf.com
Segran, Elizabeth. (2016, September 8). Your Guide to Generation Z: The Frugal, Brand-Wary, Determined Anti-Millennials. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcompany.com