Get ready for Gen Z – what do you know about this post-millennial generation?

generation-zYes, it’s time to talk about Gen Z.   Since 2010, I’ve focused the youth cultural shifts on Gen Y, aka Millennials. It took a while before leaders and organizations identified Gen Y as talent issue on fire, and executives fretting over what they call an entitled lazy generation of workers. By now, most if not all of us, are tired of hearing about Millennials.  You can find myriad of blogs and research studies I’ve done about this generation on my web site (or in my book)…but at the very least, be sure to read this one negating stereotypes about Gen Y that I wrote in 2012.  This year, Millennials (Gen Y) will surpass boomers and Gen X in the workplace–now 1 in 3.

But this blog is not about Gen Y. It’s about a new generation growing up behind the scenes, post-millennials, born starting mid-90s to 00’s, called Gen Z….aka iGeneration or iGen (a nod to Apple’s i-products?) This is the generation parented by Gen X, going out of their way to be different than Gen Y.  You can almost call them the YouTube generation since ~60% of them are watching YouTube almost every day (5+days/week). Some call them screen addicts. I know my sister has to have strict house rules around “screen” time. This generation makes up a quarter of the US population and by 2020 will account for 40% of all consumers. In the next 3 years, some will start graduating from college and enter workforce. And they have new values and ideological power very different than Gen Y.

I called Gen Y the Harry Potter generation. Standing up for your beliefs and rights  Distrust of those in power.  Gender and racial equality.  Personally feeling responsible to make a difference in the world–almost to a point of the epic fantasy Harry Potter truly is.  But Gen Z is more like a Hunger Game generation, overcoming all obstacles for a brighter future. Realistic, not overly optimistic, and more mature.

According to 2015 Census, 1/3 of millennials live with their parents. They entered the workforce during recession, which affected their ability to launch. On average, Gen Y has delayed major adulthood milestones by 3-5 years  Gen Zs, however, can’t wait to leave home and will be ready to cut loose and take over in their early 20s.  They are far more independent, more private, more selective.  They are growing up in healthier economy and will be on hot demand as they have more options. They are already out there, curious to learn and gain work experience. My 7-year-old niece is constantly talking about how to make money and her long term plans on what to buy.

This generation is exposed to so much through technology, they’ve learned to sort through and absorb extensive amount of information, as their options are limitless but their time is not. As a result, they are growing up faster and faster.  This is partly due to adverse affects of helicopter parenting of Gen Y, and Gen Z having been given more space. Growing up amid major innovation and social change, Gen Z is not as fearful about the future, either.  They seek reward through bigger challenges, not constant pad in the back like millennials.

So whether you have teenage kids, curious about social and cultural change, or gearing up your future recruitments practices and marketing strategies for your businesses, it’s time to learn about Gen Z.  March 2015 census showed this generation at 25.9% of population surpassing Millennials at 24.5%.

Here are a few key highlights just to get you started:

  • Also known as The Pluralist Generation (abbreviated as Plurals), a name coined by marketing firm Frank N. Magid Associates, they are the most diverse of any generation in the US: 55% Caucasian, 24% Hispanic, 14% African-American, 4% Asian, and 4% are mixed race.
  • Multiracials represent the fastest growing population cohort in the US, which means Gen Z families come in all shapes and colors.  (see new multiracial face of America.)  You will also see a trend toward multi-generational HHs.
  • Plurals exhibit positive feelings about the increasing ethnic diversity in the US,‪ and they are more likely than older generations to have social circles that include people from different ethnic groups, races and religions. (Wikipedia)
  • Gen Ys are known to be optimists and dreamers. Gen Zs are realists and pragmatic. Although they are more entrepreneurial, they realize that may not be pragmatic. They don’t want to be like Millennials and don’t want to repeat their mistakes.
  • According to Pew, nearly three-quarters of Zs aged 13-17 (74%) believe that everyone should be treated equally, regardless of gender, sex, or race. Most see no problem with women playing traditionally male sports (68%) or with boys playing with dolls (57%). This new generation of youth has a different perception of gender roles. They are more fluid and less defining.
  • Millennials were the first generation of youth with a majority to openly support gay rights. Gen Zs see a need to achieve the same degree of acceptance and equality for transgender community.
  • According to Census, they live in multi-generational households, so they are sharers and have greater respect for elders.

There is lots more…this is just a starting point with cultural shift.  And yes, you will see a lot more blogs coming your way about this generation.  But what does all this mean for your businesses? Frankly, filling the talent pipeline has never been so critical now that the US (and most of the globe) is facing skill gaps in most industries. So businesses should start thinking about shifting recruitment and marketing strategies. No more long drawn-out recruiting process…this generation will have lots more options. Gen Z is influencing more moms for purchase patterns too, so they also have major marketing influence. Global, social and technological, this generation doesn’t just represent the future, they are creating it.


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