Gen Z, an introduction

We have looked into four of the five generations over the last month. We began with the Silent Generation, moved to the Boomers, then onto Gen X, and last week we looked into the Millennials. Today, we are taking a look at Gen Z. Some other suggested names are iGen, Homelanders, Global Generation, Post-Millennials, or Plurals. Gen Z gets this name, so creatively named, because they follow Gen Y (Millennials). Although, they are still young as a generation and the name isn’t set as such.

An article in the New York Times in 2018 posed the name question to people, two names in particular that were suggested stuck out to me. One of the popular choices was Generation Scapegoat, so named to “be kind of the tongue-in-cheek dry humor that I see in this generation. And when baby boomers and Generation X or Y or whatever decide to start using us as punching bags instead of millennials, it’s gonna be much harder to whine about us if they’re forced to call us The Scapegoats. (Alexandra Della Santina, 22)” My favorite, which was suggested several times was the Delta Generation, or Deltas. Kelsy Hillesheim, a 22-year-old New Yorker, provided the most thoughtful explanation. “Delta is used to denote change and uncertainty in mathematics and the sciences, and my generation was shaped by change and uncertainty,” she explained, mentioning terror attacks, wars, the Great Recession and the 2016 election. “I do not have much memory of a sustained time of stability, and I’m on the older end of what you’re looking for, though I imagine this is also the case for younger deltas.” (Bromwich)

For the sake of continuity, at least up to this point in history, we will call them Gen Z. In the Silent Generation post I said that this generation ranged in time from 2000 until now, in last week’s post though I updated the dates to reflect the Pew Research’s updated dates of 1996-2010. So, yes we are already 10 years into the 16th generation!

In last week’s post I mentioned that Gen Z would soon surpass Millennials in size, after further research I have found that they did indeed surpass them in number in 2019. As of 2019, Gen Z should now be 32% of the population. Although I have not been able to find research published past 2018 to confirm those numbers. Here are some fun bits about Gen Z:

  • Gen Z respondents say they prefer in-person communications with managers (51%), as opposed to emailing (16%) or instant messaging (11%)
  • 60% want to have an impact on the world with their jobs (compared to 39% of millennials).
  • Gen Zs are more likely to have worked on a craft than Gen Ys at that age (42% vs. 25%).
  • 93% say that a company’s impact on society affects their decision to work there.
  • 50% of Gen Z’s will be university educated compared to 33% of millennials and 25% of Gen X. 
  • 60% of Gen Zers say they like to share their knowledge with others online, a sign of collaborative skills.
  • 60% would prefer a cool product over a cool experience compared to 40% of Millennials.
  • Ninety-two percent of them have some sort of digital footprint. Their relationship to technology may be even more instinctual than that of a millennial in their late 30s.
  • As it turns out, workplace engagement matters less to Generation Z than it did to previous generations. What’s most important to us is compensation and benefits. We are realists and pragmatists who view work primarily as a way to make a living rather than as the main source of meaning and purpose in our lives. 
  • The emphasis on privacy will likely only intensify under Generation Z. “Unlike Millennials, we have been raised to have individualistic and competitive natures. For that reason—along with growing research into optimal office design—we may see the trend shift away from collaborative workplaces toward more individualistic and competitive environments.” 
  • Generation Z marks the last generation in U.S. history where a majority of the population is white. “Given the shifting demographics of the country, we don’t focus as much on someone’s color, religion or sexual orientation as some of our older counterparts might. To us, a diverse population is simply the norm. What we care about most in other people is honesty, sincerity and—perhaps most important—competence.”
  • Compared to teenagers of other generations, Generation Z ranks as the most informed. “We worry about our future and are much less concerned about typical teen problems, such as dating or cliques, than we are about becoming successful in the world.”
  • According to numerous polls, the political views of Generation Z trend fiscally conservative (stemming from our need for financial stability) and socially liberal (fueled by diverse demographics and society).
  • Gen Z is actually growing up more slowly and more responsibly than popular media depicts. 
  • The article points out three significant trends among these cautious teens: 1) teens are having less sex; 2) drug use is declining; and 3) suicide is a growing worry. Other noteworthy trends include the decline of alcohol use, as well as alarming growth in anxiety and depression among teens. 
  • Fast-rising young influencers such as Emma Chamberlain, Jazzy Anne, and Joanna Ceddia all reject the notion of a curated feed in favor of a messier and more unfiltered vibe. While Millennial influencers hauled DSLR cameras to the beach and mastered photo editing to get the perfect shot, the generation younger than they are largely post directly from their mobile phones. “Previously influencers used to say, ‘Oh, that’s not on brand,’ or only post things shot in a certain light or with a commonality,” says Lynsey Eaton, a co-founder of the influencer-marketing agency Estate Five. “For the younger generation, those rules don’t apply at all.”
  • A survey by Lincoln Financial Group of 400 members of generation Z aged 15 to 19 found that they are saving far earlier than older generations: 60% of them already have savings accounts and 71% say they are focused on saving for the future. Their top three priorities are getting a job, finishing college, and safeguarding money for the years to come. They rate these goals above spending time with friends and family, working out, or traveling.
  • But while generation Z is realistic about the challenges ahead, 89% of them remain optimistic about their futures, which is higher than any other generation on record. “Part of this has to do with the natural optimism of youth,” Ohl says. “But I also think it is important that they watched their parents come through the most recent financial crisis.”
  • Given their focus on financial security, it’s not surprising that Generation Z is poised to be cutthroat when it comes to getting jobs and establishing careers. Jonah Stillman, a 17-year old from Minneapolis who, with his father David, wrote GenZ@Work, a book about how his generation will fare as members of the workforce. They’ve discovered that these young people are in “survival mode” and believe they will have to fight for what they want. They would feel lucky to get a job, which contrasts with the common perception of millennials as feeling entitled to a job. Sixty-six percent of Gen-Zers say their number one concern is drowning in college debt, and 75% say there are ways of getting a good education besides going to college.
  • “Generation Z is a very independent and competitive generation, having been taught by our parents that there are definitely winners and losers at life.”
  • But even though they see the workplace as a battlefield, they are inclusive and tolerant of difference. They grew up with a black man as the leader of the free world, with women in positions of power in the workplace, and with openly gay celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Anderson Cooper, and Neil Patrick Harris. “As a whole, gen Z is a very accepting generation,” Stillman says.
  • We are the first true digital natives,” said Hannah Payne, an 18-year-old U.C.L.A. student and lifestyle blogger. “I can almost simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo on Instagram and talk on the phone, all from the user-friendly interface of my iPhone.”
  • Generation Z takes in information instantaneously,” she said, “and loses interest just as fast.”

While millennials are often seen as more idealistic, and more motivated by purpose than a paycheck, Generation Z may lean more toward security and money. This is a pragmatic generation — they care about making a difference, but are ultimately motivated by ensuring they have a secure life outside of work.

The oldest of Gen Z’ers are just now 24, having been in the workforce for several years. Combined with Millennials they account for 38% of the current workforce and that number is expected to increase to 58% over the next decade.

What I find fascinating, is that Gen Z is far more pragmatic as a generation than Millennials are. The reasoning for some of their pragmatism is that they were raised by mostly Gen X parents, the “cynical” generation while the Millennials were raised mostly by Boomers, the “go-get-em, you can do it” generation. A New York Times article worded it well with this comparison; “Millennials, after all, were raised during the boom times and relative peace of the 1990s, only to see their sunny world dashed by the Sept. 11 attacks and two economic crashes, in 2000 and 2008. Theirs is a story of innocence lost. Generation Z, by contrast, has had its eyes open from the beginning, coming along in the aftermath of those cataclysms in the era of the war on terror and the Great Recession, Ms. Greene said.” Also, if we are comparing generations Gen Z more closely resembles the Silent Generation, both were raised during war and economic recession. “While this trend toward pragmatism may paint a picture of today’s young Americans as sort of tragically and prematurely world-weary, it may also hold the promise of economic prosperity. The Silent Generation was, after all, the richest generation in history.” (CBS)

One of my favorite stories that really exemplifies the generation to me is one my sister told me. In January when U.S Forces conducted a strike to kill Major General Qassem Soleimani of Iran, World War III began trending on Twitter. The idea of World War III is indeed slightly terrifying and was causing a lot of anxiety, specifically to those that are younger. As a way to combat the bad news, that was ill-informed, Gen Z began trending random names of Kpop idols for the sole purpose of taking over in the trends and making it a more positive space. Which worked, they were able to move WWIII down in the trends and they did it together as a large, world-wide unit.

I myself am very excited about this generation and look forward to what the future holds for all of us. Next week we will begin the posts that will take a look at how all five of these generations in the workplace can and should together and what exactly that might look like.