Everything you need to know about America’s youngest generation: For starters, they’re not like millennials!
By Ann Arnof Fishman, President, Generational Targeted Marketing
No matter what the technological advances, Gen Z (born 2001 —) can handle it! They never knew the world before the technology revolution. Long before they started school, they already had learned many digital skills. They probably even learned their ABC’s on their smartphones, tablets, or through digital games. All other generations will want Gen Zs in their workforce for their technical skills, to keep a company up to speed, and to create new intellectual property.
This generation has been highly protected: at home, due to kidnappings and Amber Alerts; in school, due to Columbine-type incidences; and in society, due to the threat of terrorism. A generation protected this much will tend to avoid risks, thus becoming a generation of conformists as adults. Look for a modern-day version of the 1950s and expect a workforce that enjoys just fitting in.
They are America’s most culturally diverse generation, which will be a bonus to international companies. Expect many of them to know more than one language. The down side for corporate America is Gen Zs can congregate into groups who speak the same foreign language. This is not fair to customers and other workers who don’t understand what they’re saying. English only on the job.
High tech skills mean low people skills. It’s probably a good idea for companies to build into their budgets annual workshops on simple human interactions and the necessary “soft” skills, especially since Gen Zs have lost some of their ability to pick up on visual cues, facial expressions and body language.
For older Gen Zs, the smart phone is their best friend. They can’t be without them at work. For younger Gen Zs, they’ll have it all on their smart watches. Really. It’s going to happen. They have apps galore, urgent social media messages to answer, and emojis to express their feelings. They think they can learn everything they need to know via the internet and will fact check anything you have to say. Many will develop internet addictions. Their popularity is defined by the number of friends they have on Facebook. And bosses need to learn text acronyms: ! means I have a comment; 02 means your two-cents worth; m.02 means my two-cents worth, and AFAIUI means, “as far as I understand it.”
Fashionwise, they will be dressed for work in “wearables.”
Because they want to fit in, and because they are highly protected, look for them to want to please, to be conscientious, to worry a bit. They protect themselves and see themselves as a “brand” that needs to be managed. There won’t be as much silly stuff posted on social media. Because of the chaos in the world during their formative years, Gen Zs will gravitate to a calmer workplace where problems are quickly handled.
Many have grown up in multi-generational families so that’s going to give them an edge. Grandma, mom, and me. That makes them comfortable with people of all ages. Their Gen X parents gave them roots and pragmatism; their millennial relatives served many times as examples of what not to do; and their boomer grandparents, seeing them as extensions of themselves, love them to pieces. It’s a great combination and a great generation.
They appear to be a big generation. That means marketers need to be ahead of the curve in courting them. The biggest mistake businesses can make is to treat them like younger versions of the millennial generation. Don’t! They will be very different.
Because Gen Z wants to fit in so badly, they suffer from FOMO—fear of missing out. It can be a downside to an employer because they always have to be in the loop. However, it also can be an upside, because they will keep you current.
FYI: It pays to get to know Gen Z because ready or not, here they come.