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Generation Y
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Generation X
Generation Z

Leaves Aren't the Only Things Changing

Its officially been autumn for over a week and that means its time for XYZ University’s annual scary stats campaign.

Its officially been autumn for over a week and that means its time for XYZ University’s annual scary stats campaign. Every year, we take a look at how generational changes are affecting the workplace, membership organizations and society as a whole. Last year, Millennials overtook Boomers as the largest generation and Generation X is projected to surpass Boomers in population by 2028. (source) No more wondering what will happen when Millennials take over. The largest generational shift of our time has happened. So what does that mean for you and your organization? This week, the spotlight is on Millennials. If you’re not familiar, here is a quick rundown.

At home 

  • For the first time in more than 130 years, adults ages 18 to 34 were more likely to be living in their parents’ home than they were to be living with a spouse or partner in their own household. (source)
  • One-fourth of Millennials in the U.S. speak a language other than English at home. (source)
  • 43% of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation. About half of newborns in America today are non-white, and the Census Bureau projects that the full U.S. population will be majority non-white sometime around 2043. (source)
  • One third of older Millennials (ages 26 to 33) have a four-year college degree or more—making them the best-educated cohort of young adults in American history. (source)
  • 35% of Millennials report having student loan debt. (source)
  • The outstanding balance of the nation’s student loans is growing by an estimated $2,726.27 every second and Americans’ student loan debt has risen to $1.2 trillion. (source)
  • 85% of Millennials access the Internet from their phones and are less likely to get news other information from TV, unlike 70% of Boomers. At least eight in 10 report using it to manage their finances, pay bills, shop online, and watch or listen to online content. (source)

At work

  • 87% of Millennials believe that “the success of a business should be measured in terms of more than just its financial performance.” (source)
  • Only 29% of Millennials are engaged at work. (source)
  • 64% of Millennials would rather make $40,000 per year at a job they love than $100,000 per year at a job they think is boring. (source)
  • 40% of Millennials say, if given the choice, they would like to leave their current employers in the next two years. (source)
  • 40% percent of Millennials who report that their manager holds regular meetings with them are engaged, but only 21% of Millennials meet with their manager on a weekly basis. (source)
  • For Millennials in most markets, work-life balance comes before career progression when evaluating job opportunities. (source)

As Consumers

  • Millennials are spending $13 less per day than their same age group in 2008 and are unable to catch up to pre-2008 spending levels at the same rate as older generations. The difference in young adults’ spending from 2008 to 2015 costs the U.S. economy at least $949 million each day. (source)
  • 71% of Millennials have gone online to compare prices, compared with 55% of older generations. (source)
  • 66% of Millennials in the US follow a company or brand on Twitter and 64% like a company or brand on Facebook to score a coupon or discount. (source)
  • 51% of US Millennials would share information with companies in exchange for an incentive. (source)
  • For 95% of Millennials in the U.S., friends are the most credible source of product information. (source)

In Society

  • Only 19% of Millennials say most people can be trusted, compared with 31% of Gen Xers and 40% of Boomers. (source)
  • 44% of Millennials describe themselves as independents. Only 28% identify as Democrats, and 19% identify as Republicans. (source)
  • 49% of Millennials say the phrase “a patriotic person” describes them very well—with 35% saying this is a “perfect” description. (source)
  • 51% of Millennials support gay rights, compared with 37% of Gen Xers and about a third of older adults. (source)
  • 51% say they do not believe there will be any money for them in the Social Security system by the time they are ready to retire, and an additional 39% say the system will only be able to provide them with retirement benefits at reduced levels. Just 6% expect to receive Social Security benefits at levels enjoyed by current retirees. (source)
  • 49% of Millennials say the country’s best years are ahead, a view held by 42% of Gen Xers, 44% of Boomers and 39% of Silents. (source)

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

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.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

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.

Zs were raised to be competitive

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.

Zs are career-focused.

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 are seeking financial security. 

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.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

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.

 

Zs want to be challenged.

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.

Sonja Moseley

Director of Strategy and Innovation at XYZ University, Sonja is passionate about growing intentionally. She isn’t afraid to ask tough questions that break down barriers and lay the groundwork for success. A Master of Nonprofit Studies coupled with leadership roles in nonprofit and membership organizations have equipped her with a unique perspective on mission-driven management. Sonja draws upon her experience to help organizations uncover opportunities and develop young talent.

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