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There’s no doubt that for the past 10 years, America’s corporate landscape has been fascinated with the arrival of the Millennial (Generation Y) workforce. Marketers targeted them, companies recruited them, and teachers adapted to them while the rest of the world tried to figure out how to appeal to them. It’s 2019 and fewer people are talking about the once-popular Millennial generation. Now, there’s a new buzzword permeating in the back of people’s mind: Gen Z.
The generation following the Millennial crowd is the next “big thing” for companies and brands. With this new target demographic making up over 32 percent of the population, it’s important America understands Gen Z’s desires, thoughts and personalities in order to successfully gain their attention and earn their business.
Gen Z comprises the portion of the population born between the mid-1990’s and the mid-2000’s. About 17 of the 74 million members of Generation Z are now adults and starting to enter the U.S. workforce. Many employers haven't seen a generation like this since the Great Depression. This part of the population came of age during a recession, war, terror threats and school shootings and are under the constant glare of technology and social media.
The result is a scarred generation, hardened by economic and social turbulence. Demographers see parallels with the Silent Generation, born between 1928 and 1945, that carry the economic scars of the Great Depression and World War II. On the other hand, Gen Z is reaping the rewards of a booming postwar economy in the 1950s and 1960s.
WORK IS A PRIORITY
In a summary of its 74 million members, Generation Z are more eager to get rich, but are less interested in owning their own businesses than the past three generations. They are more conscious of accumulating student debt and are focused on forging careers that can withstand an economic crisis.
With the generation of baby boomers retiring and unemployment rates at a historic low, Gen Z is filling gaps in the workforce, and employers are being forced to adapt. The oldest members of the generation are more interested in making work a central part of their lives and are more willing to work overtime compared to Millennials.
Compared to older generations, Gen Z is sober. Statistics show that members of this generation were less likely to have tried alcohol, gotten their driver’s licenses or gone out regularly without their parents than teens of the previous generations.
In contrast, Gen Z is experiencing higher levels of anxiety and depression. Many companies and universities are launching mental health programs for this specific reason. Some researchers blame this on smartphones, since much of Gen Z’s socialization takes place via text messages and social media platforms that allow things like bullying to play out in front of a wider audience.
Commanding $44 billion in buying power, some reports say by 2020 Gen Z will own nearly 40 percent of all consumer shopping. Because this generation grew up with smartphones in their hands, most Gen Z consumers are using their personal technology as pre-shopping tools before they even step foot in an actual store. Brands have begun offering mobile shoppers detailed information about products and services that will help them navigate their purchase, even if the purchase is not online.
In addition to online shopping, customer care is incredibly important, especially on social media. This form of communication is used by consumers to address their service issues and will become more important as Gen Z grows into their buying power.
Time will tell how Gen Z will influence the next 20 years — the importance of understanding this generation’s wants, needs and desires cannot be ignored. It’s imperative that companies learn their tendencies and how to attract them as both customer and employee.