Book a Speaker
Grow Membership
Reduce Turnover
XYZ University YouTube Page LogoXYZ University Instagram Page LogoXYZ University LinkedIn Page LogoXYZ University Twitter Page LogoXYZ University Facebook Page LogoXYZ University Vimeo LogoXYZ University RSS Feed Logo
Generation Z

What Minecraft Teaches Us About Gen Z

If you aren’t familiar with the online building game Minecraft, you probably don’t have kids. Having been around since 2009, it isn’t the newest game but it’s certainly among the most popular. More than 35 million copies have been purchased and that number grows by the hour.

If you aren’t familiar with the online building game Minecraft, you probably don’t have kids.Having been around since 2009, it isn’t the newest game but it’s certainly among the most popular. More than 35 million copies have been purchased and that number grows by the hour. (In the past 24 hours, 14,614 people purchased the game.)

More shocking than the game’s purchase stats is the fact that children today are obsessed with a game that runs on 1980s animation. Yes, you read that right. The most tech-savvy generation is playing a game using the same technology their parents’ generation used.

But this generation doesn’t care. Unlike the generations that have come before them, this generation is more concerned about entertainment value and battery life than purchasing expensive, over-the-top animation and gadgets.

Ladies and gentlemen, we’re seeing a new generation come of age; a generation of realists. This is Generation Z.

For the past six months, XYZ University’s team has been researching the arrival of Generation Z (1996-2009) — the oldest whom will turn 18 this year — to gain a better understanding of what will define and drive this next generation of workers and consumers.

It’s appropriate Gen 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, Zs are coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century.

Yes, Gen Z is tech savvy, but more than technology, this generation has been shaped by the crises they were born into: school shootings, climate change, terrorism, and the Great Recession.

These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious, but also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world — and their realistic approach to life is going to allow them to do it.

Most Zs are the children of Generation X (1965-1981), a generation known for challenging the status quo, who seem to be encouraging their children to find their own way rather than follow a set path.

Gen Z is reportedly among the most stressed generation ever, partly because their parents lead stressful lives and partly because many Zs are involved in numerous extra-curricular activities.

However, this exposure to stress may work to Z’s advantage as they move into adulthood. After all, they will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the financial crisis, as well as a retirement wave, and the effects of climate change.

Fortunately, this is an extremely resourceful and focused generation. Zs show characteristics of being cautious, careful, and rule-followers. They are concerned about their health, the environment, and doing well in life. As a result, teen drug, cigarette, and alcohol use are at all time lows. (This may lead to increased life spans. National Geographic reports one in three children today will live to be 100!)

The bottom line: Raised by parents who have encouraged them to celebrate their individualism during an era of tremendous change, Gen Z is believed to possess great leadership skills and drive.

Zs are inquisitive, entrepreneurial, and globally aware. They are diligent problem solvers and financially responsible, more interested in saving money than spending it. In many ways, the Z generation is similar to that of their grandparent’s generation — the Silent Generation.

They aren’t dreamers, per se, but they are doers — much like Steve, the builder in the Minecraft game they love to play.

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.

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.

More posts by this author

Take the first step towards your future.

Looking for a game changer at your next event or a strategy unique to your organization?