As social media continues to evolve companies, associations and brands are searching for ways to connect with their employees, members and target markets–and vice versa–employees, members and consumers are using social media to connect, communicate and correspond with their employers, associations, brands and celebrities.
Younger generations are no exception.
Twitter is a social media platform that has seen enormous growth is the past two years. Twitter currently has over 200 million users engaging in dialogue made up of 140 characters or less on a variety of topics.
My alma matter, American University in Washington, DC, hosted its very first Town Hall meeting on Twitter with the president of the University, President Neil Kerwin, last month with the intent of connecting with current students and recent graduates (those that have graduated within the last 10 years). The response and participation level was surprisingly successful because it met its target audience at the appropriate medium. The US Army is even using social media and Twitter to hold Town Hall meetings to reach Gen X and Gen Y recruits.
Brands are another channel that have effectively connected with Generations X, Y and Z via Twitter. In fact, one of the most buzz-worthy ads of the Super Bowl on Sunday wasn’t even a commercial — it was a mere tweet from Oreo during the blackout. The tweet was retweeted more than 14,500 times and “liked” more than 20,000 times on Oreo’s Facebook page (and cost significantly less than 3.8 million dollar average cost of a Superbowl Commercial).
Celebrities have also found that Twitter applicable platform to engage their fan base. Lady Gaga is a celebrity that has had phenomenal success with engaging her target audience and fan base via Twitter, the majority who also happen to be members of Generations Y and Z. She has nearly 35 million followers on Twitter. Lady Gaga success stems from her personally leveraging Twitter to cultivate and strengthen relationships with her fans either by directly talking to them or offering them exclusive content.
The magic of Twitter is that it allows people to engage in dialogue, vent and share viewpoints on common subject matters and, with the use of a hashtag, they can find others that are sharing thoughts on the same subject. Your organization or association is no exception. Twitter is a viable platform for reaching out to your younger generation of members, professionals or future leaders. When you construct strategies of how to engage your audience and succinctly relay your message in 140 characters or less, the opportunities for increased engagement between Generations X, Y and Z are endless.
In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.
Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.
Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.
In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.
With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.
Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.
Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.
Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.
Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.
In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.
While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.
The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.
Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results. Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.
When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.
Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.
Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.
Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.
Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.
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