We have been saturated in the past five years with tools, seminars, research, podcasts and literature on how to embrace the ever popular Millennial generation. The “Me” generation who lives by the YOLO mentality- you only live once. Many of us who have preceded the Millennial generation would agree that we are better equipped now than we were even three years ago on how to understand and lead the Millennial generation.
Well hold on guys, just when you think you have it all figured out, you may need to erase everything you have known about the Millenials and get prepared for the next generation, the Gen Zers! This is a generation that may have some similarities with their predecessors the Millennials, but are different in many ways. If we head into leading Generation Z with the same framework as the Millennials, we may have trouble ahead!
As a business owner who employs, teaches and leads Generation Z, I feel it is important that we recognize three major differences, understand the ways that we can successfully connect with this new generation and then be able to maximize and unleash the potential of what I predict is going to be the next greatest generation. So let’s take a journey into learning a little bit about Gen Z, learning this differences, getting the best tools to work with this generation and in turn unlock huge potential for all of us as business owners, leaders and teachers!
One of the first things we need to know about Gen Z is when do they start. There is a gray area of when the Gen Zers actually start. Some researchers say Gen Z starts as early as 1996 but most data states that Gen Z are those kids born between 2000-2012.
Three of the main differences and distinguishing traits of the Generation Z compared to Millennials are their conservative nature, entrepreneurship tendencies and their devotion to a life of purpose.
Like Millennials, Generation Z is a generation of extreme diversity. However, unlike the Millennial generation that was born in the 90’s when America’s economy was expanding, the Dot.com era was born and who were taught that “anything is possible” ,the Generation Zers experienced an economic recession, daily terrorism headlines, racial unrest, increase in gender confusion, unemployment and debt increase. These events have caused this generation to think more cautiously and more realistic. Many Gen Zers were born of parents of the Generation X who lived through the recession where they lost 40% of their net worth.
We are going to see this next generation be more cautious and conservative in their spending as they have witnessed their siblings and their Gen X parents incur a large amount of financial debt. An interesting trend in this generation is a lower percentage going on to college. In a Huffington Post survey of Gen Zers, they reported that 75% of Gen Z feels there are other means of higher education than going to a four year college program. Currently we are experiencing a 5-10% decline in college enrollment in the past three years and many high school students graduating early and going right into the workforce. Gone are the days that colleges could use the message “Come Discover Yourself, Find yourself” This generation does not buy this.
Gen Z knows nothing other than a digital, social and mobile world. They have been immersed into this world from birth and they are very much products of the DIY (Do It Yourself) mentality. With their digital mindset, they are extremely intelligent and know how to get results quickly. In a recent Gallup poll, only 10% of the Millenials want to be entrepreneurs compared to 18% of Gen Zers.
There is a common phenomenon in Gen Z that is called “Side Hustle.” This is a byproduct of how entrepreneurial minded this generation and how common it is for them to have additional jobs on the side.
Long are the days that starting your own business takes months, maybe years. Think about it, today you can hop on the internet, file for an LLC, create a logo, design a website and order business cards within a day. This “Side Hustle” is not an situation of this generation doing either/ or but doing the job “and.” that job and they are not going to try to hide it. They have their main job or they are a student AND they have a Side Hustle. I have already seen this in several of my own students and my team of people who work in our business.
The final difference of Gen Z that is important to note is that this is a generation who wants to prioritize purpose in their work. Unlike Millennials who are more driven by growth and a balanced lifestyle, the Gen Zers are looking to align with organizations with a purpose worth committing to. They are leaning toward more of the public and non-profit sectors in comparison to the Millenials who flood the private sector. Taking note of this purpose driven character trait becomes important as we lead and employ this younger generation.
Generation Z likes to make a difference and are looking to fill a void in the world. They are commonly referred to as “New Minds, Old Souls.” This generation relates really well to the Baby Boomer generation, the largest generation ever that is slowly making its way out of the workforce as they are starting to retire.
So how do we successfully connect with Gen Zers?
We must be authentic with this generation. They can see right through fluff. They are quick to call people out and though more respectful to their older generational leaders, they do not have an issue calling out any means of inauthenticity. We also need to remember to keep it short. This generation has strong filters and short attention spans. They have five screens going minimum at times. The key is to engage them within six seconds. This is how much time we have for them to make up their minds if they are going to engage with us.
With this generation being entrepreneurially minded, we need to find ways to give them ownership in the creation process. We will find more success in guiding this generation from the side and letting them create. We need to become navigators to help chart their direction and give advice. They value things they have discovered and we should push them to be creators, not consumers. Don’t think of informing them, think of interpreting. They don’t need knowledge from us, they need interpretation. This is key! We should pull, not push as we lead this generation.
The final suggestion on how to connect with this generation is to be able to offer them a cause. These kids want to do something very important and have a higher purpose. All their life they have been told “WHAT” to do. We will be more successful with this generation if we explain the “WHY.” We will get a deeper engagement as they are a generation lead by their hearts .
It is our duty as a leaders of Gen Z to unleash their potential and be aware of the amazing future our businesses, our communities and our world can have by taking the Gen Z strengths and combining them with strong core character values. I have witnessed in my teaching and leadership curriculum, amazing growth due to the simple exposure and awareness of timeless principles such as kindness, work ethic, giving, gratitude and excellence. As leaders we are called to expose and surround this generation with these core values in order for them to be truly successful in today’s day and age.
This is an exciting time and I am very hopeful that this Generation Z will be the next greatest generation of all times. Embrace them, lead them and create a legacy of young leaders who can make this world a better place!