They aren't Millennials, and they'll do things their own way.
Much has been written in recent years about the purpose-chasing, work/life balancing, participation-trophy earning Millennial generation. But now that the demographic is the largest in the workforce, many are turning their attention to the generation that will follow.
Unlike their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z is proving to take the digital native approach in a different direction. While also born in a post-Internet world, Gen Z had the added stresses of experiencing the 2008 financial crises at the crucial age where career decisions, shopping habits and other preferences are formed.
As a more frugal, brand wary, financially motivated generation, Gen Z has even been labelled 'anti-Millennial.' Their growing numbers in the workforce and spending power will completely change the way businesses operate.
Gen Z uses social media differently
Unlike their over-sharing predecessors, this generation is far more wary of social media and Internet culture, having been warned of Internet bullying and privacy concerns from a young age.
That doesn’t mean that Gen Z isn’t also totally obsessed with their phone and the digital world. In fact, 90.6 per cent of Gen Zers say that a company’s technological sophistication would impact their decision to work there, and 40 per cent indicate that working Wi-Fi is more important to them than working bathrooms.
However, unlike Millennials who are carefully crafting a public image through social media for the entire world to see, Gen Z is more concerned with their immediate circle.
A clear demonstration of this shift is evident in the social media of choice for each generation. While Millennials love the personal brand building, share-everything applications like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, the most popular platform amongst Gen Z is the one on which images and messages instantly disappear — Snapchat.
Gen Z rejects big brands
While Millennials demanded more from their brands — more transparency, more social good and more accountability — Gen Z rejects brands almost entirely. As a generation that grew up with communication technology, they had the most advertising-filled upbringing of any generation in history. This has resulted in an outright distrust of major labels.
Though they reject major institutions, they are more open to information provided by individuals, even influencers on social media, leaving an avenue open to advertising in the future. They are also more accepting of brands that promote transparency and social good, not unlike the Millennials before them, but are wary of brands that try to win them over using more traditional advertising mediums.
Gen Z is very concerned with their financial future
As the generation that came of age during the 2008 financial crises, many Gen Zers will recall tense dinner table conversations about economic concerns and belt-tightening. Furthermore, with the cost of post-secondary education reaching record heights, many are worried about the return on that investment, and how they plan to secure a financial future for themselves upon graduation.
Unlike Millennials who are willing to take a pay cut in order to work for a company with a strong culture, Gen Z feels it doesn’t have that luxury, and is more concerned with just making ends meet.
According to a survey by the Lincoln Financial Group, Gen Z’s top priorities are getting a job, graduating college and saving for the future, well ahead of options that are more characteristic of Millennial priorities, like spending time with friends and family or travelling. In fact, though many are still in high school, 60 per cent of Gen Zers already have a savings account.
Gen Z is very focused on their own success
The heightened awareness and concern over financial security seeps into the generation’s career decisions as well. While their predecessors wanted to work with others in an environment with strong values and felt they deserved regular promotions, Gen Z has shown more of a willingness to wait their turn. In fact, 61 per cent say it’s more important to get experience than climb the corporate ladder, and 75 per cent would even be interested in taking on multiple roles within one company.
With parents who often rejected the ideals of the participation-trophy parenting style, this new generation is more individualistic and interested in keeping score. In the workplace, they require regular feedback and a clear path to advancement but understand that they need to earn their way up the ladder, one rung at a time. Their sense of focus leads them to work well when given clear directions and barriers, but sometimes struggle more with creative thinking and open-ended problem-solving.
As more Gen Z professionals join the workforce, it's important for leadership, middle management and HR to take the lead and understand what makes this generation tick. How will you adapt your communication style, training and resources to bring the best out in every employee as we enter this new era of business?
About the Author
Jared Lindzon is a freelance journalist based in Toronto, covering a variety of topics, including technology, careers, entrepreneurship, politics and music. His work regularly appears in major publications in Canada, the United States and around the world, including the Globe and Mail, Fast Company, Fortune Magazine, Rolling Stone, Politico, the Guardian and more.More Content by Jared Lindzon