Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock, you should know who Generation Z is by now.
Oh wait, you don’t? So was that rock warm at least…?
Either way, you’ve come to the right place. Although, if you’re reading this and aren’t even sure where Gen Y went before we got here to this whole Z thing, take a look at this article about who millennials are. This post however, is all about who came next.
Once you’re done, you’ll know exactly who Generation Z is, what they want out of life, and why you should care. Let’s get to it.
Who Is Generation Z?
Generation Z, also commonly referred to as Gen Z, iGeneration, Centennials, or the Homeland Generation, were born approximately from the mid 1990s to the early 2000s. Although their exact age range is currently among an ongoing debate.
The Homeland Generation currently makes up about 25% of the US population, or around 60 million people. They’ve also grown up in the most tolerant and diverse time in history. For most of their life, they’ve been aware and comfortable with same sex marriage, gender fluidity, and a higher percent of the population being a minority.
These kids are the true digital natives, more so than Millennials. They were pretty much born with smartphones in their hands as babies.
What Are They Like?
Personality wise, most of this generation is basically a Millennial caricature. It’s as if they studied Millennials and their habits, then developed an actionable plan for how to be better. Here are some common traits that this group possesses.
No Attention Spans
For starters, technology has completely destroyed their attention spans and altered the way they communicate.
They can Vine, Whisper, Instagram, and Snapchat each other whenever they fancy and they take full advantage of that access. This constant incoming of media messaging has caused them to develop the need to efficiently go through information, decide what’s important or relevant, and then on to the next source.
With no shortage of information available, instant gratification has become an expectation.
But they’re okay with that. It’s all they’ve ever known. Rotary phones, or even dial up internet, was never an issue that this generation had to face.
How did these techno natives get this way? Great question.
- Instant Messaging/Emojis. Face to face conversations and letters are a thing of the past. The Centennials are able to talk to anyone, anywhere, and anytime at the push of a button. Also, those adorable little smiley faces are used just about as frequently with this generation. That means instant communication on a whole other level (one that doesn’t even involve words). Talk about efficiency.
- Innovation. Think about it. In their lifetime these kids have seen cell phones, jetpacks, 3d printers, and flying cars all before they hit puberty. They are used to rapid change.
- Screens. Screens, screens, and more screens. From smartphones, television sets, tablets, and computers, Generation Z has been inundated with media stimuli since birth, and they have 24/7 entertainment at their fingertips.
They Know Exactly Who They Are And What They Believe In
If you had to choose four defining traits of this generation, they would be the following:
- Open Minded
Stop and really give those some thought for a second.
Generation Z grew up in a much more open and information heavy society. With more tolerance for different kinds of people, and they are used to having a strong voice from the usage of their cell phones and social media networks.
These kids have seen things…a lot of things. Whether it was watching our nation deal with a war on terror, injustices in other parts of the world, or seeing our economy shaken up in 2008 and the corruption of the banking industry.
So they are cautious about their impact on the world.
These youngins’ are also extremely quick learners.
They have dealt with assimilating all kinds of new information since birth. They have gone through an astounding amount of gadget and general technological advancement.
Their minds have adapted to being able to quickly assess what something is, get a general idea of how it works, and teach themselves a working level of proficiency in a very short amount of time.
Having an almost unlimited amount of resources has shaped their minds to seek answers to their questions digitally and through online partnerships. Their goal isn’t necessarily to think through the problem until they get it, but rather to just find a sufficient answer to the problem as efficiently as possible.
Gen Z vs Millennials: Aren’t They The Same Thing?
To be quite frank, no. They’re not.
A good number of Millennials knew a very brief time before the complete technological explosion there is now. They were around when technology was in use, but still at its infantry in some circumstances. Centennials were born with iPhones in their lives.
Even though i’m one myself, Millennials are a little more gullible, and have faith in the system. Most Millennials still have a little hope that American Dream is alive and well, and possible for most to achieve.
Gen Y and the iGeneration also have very different spending and buying habits. Millennials don’t mind spending their money as long as they are having a great experience. Gen Z tends to be a little more stingy with their money and conservative with their spending.
Lastly, Generation Z has higher expectations. For everything. They’ve started to realize that there is so much possibility in this world, and opportunities at every corner. Or for areas of society that don’t look so promising, they want to be the ones to make the change.
The iGeneration Has Plans For The Future
This very socially conscious generation wants to leave the planet better off than before they existed. That’s going to be their legacy.
Saving The Planet and Society
Big issues like climate change, air and water pollution, and general sustainability are becoming a very important topic of conversation to this generation. They seem to be more conscious of these changes and impact that humans are having on the earth. They’ve came to the conclusion that it’s just not okay anymore.
Also, equality is not only something they’re familiar with, it’s something they are determined to promote and create. They want to live in a fair, and representative society where their opinions matter. Where everyone’s opinions matter.
Healthy Eating Matters
No more microwave dinners. This particular cohort has reconsidered what kinds of things they’re putting into their bodies, and where it’s coming from.
That means more home cooked meals, and fresher ingredients. Even a generation wide willingness to do so even if it cost more.
This trend towards healthier eating also includes a skepticism towards claims of foods being “healthy” or “good for you” without actual nutritional backing.
Both of these trends make complete sense if you think about it. Previous generations, have been in awe of products like microwaves, or the convenience of packaged and artificially flavored foods. All of those innovations were seen as a more efficient way to feed yourself and a way to get back precious time.
But the iGeneration has been exposed to virtually all of the information in the world their entire lives, and know exactly what is in some of those products, and what kinds of harmful effects they have. They are also quick to fact check any claim made by any business and compare the information to multiple sources pretty quickly.
Getting these food sources from fresh, local, or sustainable sources is incredibly important as well. They want to know that they are keeping their negative impact on the planet low, and utilizing as many sustainable products and services as possible.
As your employee, they’re going to have some very specific ideals in terms of how they’d like to work.
For starts, they’re going to want a better work environment. This means that there will be push back on things like traditional work hours, staying at the same desk each day, and will want the freedom to pursue ideas and options that they think will be beneficial even if they might be a little radical.
Also, Centennial workers are going to want to work more efficiently. Technology has been a huge part of their lives since birth, and it’s all they know. Outdated, and overly monotonous processes are not going to be easily dealt with or tolerated by this generation.
They all want synergy (Yes I know, I hate that word too).
But seriously, a healthy and positive office dynamic is critical to the well being of this cohort. The company will most likely become a part of their identity and that means that the values of the business have got to align pretty closely to theirs.
As business owners (which most of them aspire to be), they are going to have an enormous impact. Here’s why:
- Disruptive Business Models. They’ve grown up around constant innovation and have a mind blowing access to information. Mixed with a rising ease of entry into owning your own company, their thinking has shifted into a more entrepreneurial direction. The members of this generation are constantly thinking what unique value they can provide, and how to be different.
- Positive Social Impact. These kids are extremely environmentally and socially conscious. They grew up having to deal with economic instability, worries about their educations and futures, and seemingly senseless conflicts in other parts of the country. Their companies are going to reflect this and will purposefully try and integrate practices and policies to reflect their beliefs.
- Honesty, Integrity, and Loyalty to Customers. Constant social media usage has caused them to have a much more straightforward mentality. They willingly disclose many different aspects of their own lives, and have a great deal of access to the lives of others. Their businesses are likely to stand on that model and extend that kind of openness to their customers.
So if I were you, i’d start taking Generation Z very seriously.