For the past decade, Millennials have been all the craze. They have dominated the focus of social media commentary and the business world, as organizations seek new ways to attract and retain Millennial employees. Entering the workforce in huge numbers, Millennials have transformed the norms of what it means to work in America. This generation has garnered so much attention, that you may be sick of even hearing the word “Millennial.”
Well, you’re not alone. And that’s why we’re excited to introduce you to America’s newest generation: Generation Z.
Generation Z, generally those with a birthdate in 1996 or later, are on the brink of entering America’s workforce. They are in middle school and high school, and the oldest cohort are about to graduate college or may already have this past May. Get ready. Here they come. And here is what you need to know about them:
They were shaped by events and issues that dominated the early 21st century. They grew up in the aftermath of 9/11, in an era that featured the economic and environmental crisis, huge political divides, and general uncertainty. At the same time, they grew up seeing the first African-American president, the legalization of gay marriage, and the rise of social media. These sociopolitical issues have influenced Gen Z’s worldviews in tremendous ways, and their immersion in the digital landscape has perhaps made them the most socially aware and, simultaneously, the most cynical generation since their great-grandparents who grew up in the aftermath of World War II.
Compared to Millennials, Gen Z are more financially pragmatic and prudent with their spending. They witnessed their families suffering under the 2008 recession and they understand the importance of financial stability. In fact, this financial prudence even shapes how they view education. Seeing their older siblings strapped with student loans, Generation Z prefer to hack education, mixing free Ivy League classes with online certificates and real-world experience. In 2014, almost 6 million students nation-wide reported taking online courses, with student enrollment increasing every year. This focus on financial stability may indicate a decreasing tendency to job jump, but only time will tell.
We all know that Millennials are tech-savvy. Gen Z are the true digital natives. They learned how to use tablets and smart phones as toddlers, and while Millennials worried about their status on social media, Gen Z prefer more private channels of communication like Snapchat, where they can choose to share their lives with just close friends and family instead of their entire network. They grew up with cautionary tales of what not to post on Facebook in case future recruiters stumble upon an unflattering college frat photo—Gen Z are very deliberate with their privacy settings.
Generation Z are even better at toggling across platforms and between the virtual and real world. Because they are used to being flooded with digital stimulus, they are able to process more information more quickly. This also means a shorter attention span than Millennials. Approximately 11% have ADHD according to Psychology Today.
Gen Z are also the most diverse generation in America to date. The tremendous diversity this generation represents as consumers, employers, and leaders will have a profound impact on companies and company cultures. At the same time, Gen Z are the most global generation to date. They grew up digitally connected to teens across the world. In fact, a 16-year-old from two different countries probably have more in common than a 16-year-old and a 61-year-old who live in the same city.
Like their predecessors, Gen Z values development and growth opportunities. They will benefit well from mentorship opportunities and in-depth training to help them integrate into the workplace. As with the Millennials, we expect to see a positive response to reverse mentoring programs, where junior employees share their knowledge and skills with senior employees.
Shaped by the changing landscape of the world, Generation Z is more cautious and cynical than Millennials. Though they are as tech-savvy as their predecessors, Generation Z are more prudent about what they post on social media and who sees it. What’s more, they are also cautious with their spending habits and are resourceful even when it comes to getting a degree.
They are pragmatic, global, diverse, digital natives. And they’ll be trickling into your office soon as interns and new hires. We expect them to be a great addition to the global workforce. Give a warm welcome to… Generation Z!