Millennials are now fully integrated into society as adults and the culture has come to a better understanding of what makes the tech-savvy, diverse generation tick. We’re only just beginning to learn about Generation Z – the oldest of which is joining the workforce this year. Early research reports are helping to paint a picture of what this generation values, what motivates them, what they expect of employers and how they are decidedly different from Millennials.
What Defines Generation Z
Born between 1996-2012, members of this generation are true digital natives. They’ve never been without access to the internet or smart phones. They’ve never known a world where social media wasn’t fully integrated into their lives or unrestricted access to information wasn’t readily available.
Beyond technology – environmental issues, terrorism, global refugee crises, and corporate greed have all been part of Gen Z’s formative landscape.
They are brand-savvy and socially conscious and are set to be the most racially and ethnically diverse population in U.S. history.
They understand the impact of their decisions; they will make choices that serve their needs, while still contributing to the greater good. This will be a generation that will make a difference.
Generation Z’s Top 3 Priorities:
- Enjoying Life
- Finding a great job
- Becoming a better person
Millennials vs. Gen Z
- Millennials emerged alongside technology advancements, but Gen Z was born with internet access.
As a Millennial myself, I remember fighting with my parents because someone was on the phone and I couldn’t use the dialup internet. Motorola Razors were the common cell phone used “only in emergencies” and the internet was charged by the minute. While Millennials adapted to the rapidly evolving technology of smart phones, constant connectivity and on-demand entertainment, for Gen Z these innovations are largely assumed.
- Millennials own their social media addictions, but Gen Z is detoxing.
While Millennials know they’re addicted to social media and sharing everything online, mostly, they can’t be bothered to unplug. Gen Z, on the other hand, has witnessed the negative affects of social media on the older generation and trying to combat it at an early age. Nearly 34% of Gen Z have deleted their accounts and another 58% are actively trying to take a time-out from the feelings of stress and anxiety that social media is perpetuating.
What does this mean for marketers? Invest in relevance over reach. The landscape has changed. Organic reach has fallen so low for social platforms that it has become less viable as a tool to reaching Gen Z. However, it has become one of the best ways to deliver one-to-many or one-to-one branded content. Today’s approach on social should be focused on engagement and conversation.
- Millennials want original content, while Gen Z responds to authentic and ethically sound content.
In a world where negative content and fake news seem to be flooding our timelines, Gen Z wants posts from brands to be factual and ethical. Millennials respond to original and catchy branding, but Gen Z’ers have higher expectations and a carefully tuned radar for being sold to. Corporations and brands need to take a stand on social issues to earn their trust. Social values are very important to this young generation and they want to support companies who believe in a bigger picture beyond a bottom dollar profit.
Shifting the message and how its delivered in response to Gen Z values will be key to marketing success. While influencers have been effective with Millennials, Gen Z has started to see through them. Friends and family have the most impact on Gen Z’s purchase decisions. Successful brands will engage the new generation and earn loyalty through authenticity and the right messengers.
- Millennials brought tech-savvy and fluid lifestyles to the workforce and Gen Z is expected to combine those traits with the work ethic of Baby Boomers and independence of Gen Xers.
Generation Z as a whole is full of enthusiasm and optimism. They are wise beyond their years, because they have learned from previous generations’ mistakes. They know what they need to do to get ahead, and they aren’t afraid to do the work. They are well-rounded, with their feet on the ground, while still being able to dream about a great future. They have many traditional goals such as secure employment, long term loyalty, a house, a car, and money for retirement, but they also say they plan to strike out on their own and build a future that aligns with their values.
As Gen Z enters the workforce, they want:
- A great boss;
- Flexibility to work where and when they want;
- An invitation to be part of a team; and
- A diverse and inclusive workplace.
Overall, we as a society, have never had a generation born into a technology boom like today’s. We don’t yet know the impact this will have, nor the impact of Donald Trump as the first president most Gen Zers know as they turn 18.
Though we don’t yet know how this generation will shift our society, their ability to be heard and fearlessness in standing up for what they believe in hint they are a generation to look up to.