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Ready or Not - Here Comes Gen Z

On Sunday I’m presenting a Learning Lab at #ASAE17 on Generation Z. Still trying to understand the Millennials? Well, ready or not, here comes Gen Z – the oldest who are turning 21 this year.

On Sunday I’m presenting a Learning Lab at #ASAE17 on Generation Z. Still trying to understand the Millennials? Well, ready or not, here comes Gen Z – the oldest who are turning 21 this year. 

Here’s a brief introduction to the next next generation. 

Zs didn’t experience the typical childhood. They are first generation of the 21st century and they came of age during the most disruptive decade of the last century. 

Born 1996-2009, Gen Z’s arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions and experiences. Marriage equality, war, climate change, terrorism, recession, mobile technology, political conflict, emojis, and the refugee crisis are just a few of the dramatic changes that influenced Zs.

While every new generation has faced its share of disruption in economics, politics, and society, no other generation in history was raised with the ability to connect with every human being on the planet, and no other generation was raised amidst such widespread disruption.

As a result, Z has been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm, not just talk about it. Throughout history, the behaviors and choices of young people have been an indicator of future workplace, consumer, and economic trends. The same is especially true right now.

Think this generation is too young, inexperienced, or immature to assume any real responsibility or influence considerable change? Think again.

Based on our research at XYZ University, we’ve identified six unique, defining influences and behaviors of Gen Zs. 

· Hackerz 

In contrast to Gen Y/Millennials, who have seen a full cycle of boom and bust, Z's have experienced only economic malaise and political and environmental disruption. Raised during the most disruptive decade in history has taught Zs that real and significant change is entirely possible. It’s also taught them the world has many flaws. As a result, Zs have learned to think like hackers—fixing, changing, and creating new solutions and opportunities in hopes of finding a better way to do things.

· Curatorz 

Gen Z isn't just consuming content; they're creating it. In fact, 80% of Zs consider creativity an important aspect of their lives. This is the first generation to spend more time watching YouTube than television, and they also post more videos than any other generation. It’s become an art to create memes, and get content across in videos, emojis, on Instagram, or Snapchat.

· Geekz 

Gen Z grew up in an era in which societal standards began to shift dramatically. Norms were flipped: "gay" was no longer taboo, diversity was mainstream, and bullying became uncool. Suddenly, the nerds were the popular ones, and describing yourself as a “geek” — especially passionate about your favorite hobby, class, or subject matter — was considered cool. Zs revel in their individuality. They prefer to be offbeat and quirky and they are the first generation to ignore branding, marketing, and trends.

· Entrepreneurz 

Perhaps because they're comfortable pushing their creations, opinions, and solutions out into the world, Gen Z is also entrepreneurial. Research shows more than half want to run their own start-up, and 76% percent aim to make their hobby their job. They believe success will come from their network, hard work, and ideas rather than qualifications, and they learned, at a very young age, how to be strategic competitive, and innovative. Zs aren’t afraid to speak up or to fail.

· Heroez

From Harry Potter to Avengers and the Hunger Games, Zs were surrounded by and gravitated towards the hero storyline. Similar to the heroes, Gen Z shuns social conformity and wants to make a difference: 60% want their jobs to impact the world, 26% volunteer, and 76% are concerned about humanity's impact on the planet. Because of Z’s fluency with digital tools and platforms, they have learned to be advocates and to express themselves in creative ways, and they want to use those skills to make an impact.

· Builderz

Sociologists have identified there’s an inclination to build and conserve when times are tough. Zs are definitely driven to build – businesses, campaigns, communities – and at the same time they are conserving. They are more likely to save money than previous generations, and actively seek to conserve resources to prevent climate change. This Build-Conserve continuum hasn’t been in practice for 100 years, and will certainly influence consumerism and participation in dramatic ways.

It would be detrimental for organizations to ignore Z’s influence and determination. This generation didn’t experience the typical childhood, and their approach to adulthood isn’t likely to be typical either. They came of age during the most disruptive decade of the last century, and they will continue to disrupt and innovate – with or without your organization.

Want to learn more? Please join me for Ready or Not – Here Comes Gen Z.

Sarah Sladek

Concerned about declining engagement in our nation’s membership associations, non-profits, and workplaces, Sarah Sladek founded XYZ University, the nation’s first and only generations-focused training and engagement strategy company, in 2002.

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