Don’t look now, but while we’ve all been busy trying to figure out Generation Y, the oldest members of Generation Z will soon walk out of their high school classrooms and into the workforce. The members of Generation Z were born in 1996, which means none of them remember a time before iPods or the Internet. They’re also old enough to buy your products and many (even those who aren’t graduating this year) are old enough to work for you.
Gen Z has been shaped by a post 9/11 world in which we’ve constantly been fighting a “War on Terror,” while struggling through dire economic times. Their circumstances have molded them into a generation with a sense of social justice and fiscal maturity who want things on demand.
The oldest of Generation Z (the 14-17 year old crowd) are already going to work and saving the money they earn. That’s right, saving money. The oldest of Gen Z spent their formative years listening to bad news about the economy, watching parents lose jobs and siblings move home, which has taught them to do more with less.
Unlike their Gen Y and Gen X predecessors (the first generations comfortable with large amounts of debt) Gen Z is not interested in going into credit debt to have what they want now. They are much more patient and willing to compromise, holding off on the gratification until they can afford to buy what they want outright. And what do they want? College and retirement. They are already saving for college; some are already saving for retirement. Thirty percent of Gen Z is worried about their family’s financial situation.
Generation Z grew up hearing about global warming; they’re living in a time of color coded terror watches; they watched their parents lose jobs and possibly even their homes. Forty-three percent of kids aged 7-13 feel that school violence will have the largest impact on their generation.
Gen Z doesn’t have the optimism of Millennials, when they see these problems in the world, they feel the need to take action to fix them. Gen Z is a very realistic generation. Still, they are not pessimistic, only six percent of Gen Z is fearful of the future. Why is that? Because they have plans to make it better.
Generation Z comes after the Internet and cell phone. They have lived their whole lives in an information age where they don’t need to wait for a response. The answers they want come to them immediately through smartphones, iPads and the like. Some are even calling Gen Z The Google Generation. They expect immediate feedback. They will text you before they’ll send you an email and wait for a response. Communication happens in real time with Gen Z. If they have an email address, chances are it was set up so they could communicate with their grandparents.
Considering that many had digital footprints before they were even born, it’s no surprise that Gen Z trusts digital sources like social media and mobile messaging more than any generation before them. Marketers and recruiters pay attention: Gen Z is not going to find your ads in a mailer or brochure, but they’ll trust you if you’ve created a genuine online presence. If you want this fiscally conservative generation to help keep you in business or your association going, you’re going to need to get up to speed with the media they use and trust.
Gen Z might be a small generation compared to others, (currently about a quarter of the size of Gen Y), but their diversity, inherent ability to network worldwide and use tech tools for collaboration will give them a broad reach and a lot of influence. Expect changes.
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