16 Things You Need To Know to Lead Gen Z
While we’re all just getting our heads around how to manage and lead Millennials, the next generation has already snuck into the workforce in droves. Are you ready to lead Gen Z?
Anyone born from the mid ‘90s to about 2015 is not considered part of the Millennial generation, but of Generation Z or ‘iGen’, also known as Founders or Centennials. This emerging group (now up to their early twenties) are the fastest growing group of employees, customers, and voters.
It might be tempting for older generations to categorise Millennials and Gen Zs together but they are in fact very different. Without putting them all into one box, it’s important to know their differences in order to prepare your business, leadership networks, and recruitment teams to lead Millennials and Gen Z for the future.
Here are 16 key emerging things we are learning about Gen Z:
With constant notifications and updates from countless apps and websites invading every part of their lives, the attention spans of Gen Z are likely to be significantly lower than those of Millennials. They may process information faster but less in-depth with only short sharp superficial bursts of content. Information and tasks may need to be adapted accordingly.
Gen Z can quickly and comfortably shift between work and play, reality and virtual, often working on multiple tasks at once. Their phones, notebooks, laptops, and e-readers become an extension of themselves. Setting clear direction and regular goals which challenge them and keep them highly engaged is key.
3. Digital natives
Being ‘digitally native’, Gen Z are already the most influential technology trendsetters. Unlike their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z have never experienced life without the internet. They expect to own various smart devices, have unlimited access to all information, and free wifi wherever they go. Gen Z are 25% more likely than Millennials to admit they’re addicted to their digital devices (40% of Gen Z are self-identified digital device addicts).
In a survey by the Centre for Generational Kinetics, Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers thought people shouldn’t have a smartphone until they’re 18 whereas Gen Z think that 13 is an appropriate age.
Living almost their entire lives online – from interacting with friends and family to making major purchases – could have profound implications for everything from their relationships and how they learn to virtual reality training and problem-solving.
3. Social media
Gen Z list their top three social media sites as Vine, Instagram, and Twitter – Facebook doesn’t even make it into their top five. 34% of Gen Z had never heard of LinkedIn.
5. Tech etiquette
Gen Z think it’s acceptable to use a mobile phone while eating dinner with the family, during a religious service, on a job interview, on a dinner date, or even at their own wedding. In contrast, they are 50% less likely than other generations to say it’s ok to use their phone and surf the web during work hours.
A surprising and perhaps worrying number (42%) of Gen Z say that social media has a direct impact on how they feel about themselves, 39% say it influences their self-worth, and 37% admit that it has a direct effect on their happiness.
It is wise not to underestimate the effect of growing up in a world framed by cravings for instant validation (through likes and followers), all-encompassing FOMO (‘fear of missing out’), and feelings of envy and inadequacy from the illusion that everyone is richer, more attractive, and happier than them. As leaders we can help develop Gen Z’s psychological resilience to help them flourish in their personal and professional lives.
The notion of privacy in our society is always evolving. The emerging generation have grown up sharing almost every aspect of their lives with friends and businesses online. Their whole perception of privacy is different from that of other generations and they seem happy to view their information as a commodity to be exchanged in return for personalised goods and services. Gen Z are also much more trusting of mobile payment apps and social media to purchase goods than of online credit card payments. It is important to ensure your staff are informed, educated, and vigilant about the security of your business and the fact that they are ambassadors of the company.
8. Social skills
Gen Z engage in fewer social activities than previous generations. They are often more comfortable communicating electronically and may even feel awkward or unable to express themselves well in face-to-face interactions. According to Jean Twenge in her book iGen, their addiction to the numerous screens in their lives, despite the appearance of ‘social activity’, may not only make them anti-social but also lonelier than any generation before them. In the work place, more attention than ever will be needed on developing soft skills, such as interpersonal versatility.
Gen Z recently made headlines when a 40-year study, which analyzed survey responses from 8.3 million teenagers between 1976 and 2016, found that this generation is avoiding alcohol, sex, driving, and going out without their parents more than any previous wave of humanity.
Due to the trend of slowing down life – with people living longer, resources being more abundant, and parents wanting to raise their kids to stay kids longer – there seems to be less of a rush for modern teens to become adults. Research by Twenge and Park suggests that today’s 18-year-old more closely resembles a 15-year-old of the 1970s or ’80s.
Suicide rates for Gen Z teens are higher than of any other generation. Instead of working or playing outside, teens are more likely to feel isolated and tethered to their devices. Studies have found that ‘teens who spend more time on screens are less happy and more depressed, and those who spend more time with friends in person are happier and less depressed.’
It is a timely reminder that constant communication doesn’t necessarily lead to meaningful connection and may even inhibit it. We need to be prepared to help this generation develop crucial resilience, mental toughness, and interpersonal skills.
Many Gen Z are opting out of the traditional route of higher education and the debt and uncertainty that goes with it, and instead going straight into the workforce and educating themselves online. They can learn complex things like how to upgrade their computer’s operating system the same way they can learn how to bake a vegan cheesecake: one video at a time, whenever they want.
12. Global mindset
Gen Z will become more global in their thinking and interactions than any other generation before them. They are more diverse than any other generation and more accepting of differences. The diversity that Gen Z brings as employees, consumers, and entrepreneurs will have a profound impact across generations and cultures.
A large portion of this generation want to have a job that makes a positive impact in some way. They are more eco-conscious and concerned about humanity’s impact on the environment.
This global mindset also applies to their work and lifestyle arrangements, with it being easier than ever to be location independent. Many companies have already started to experiment with employees working remotely and have seen benefits for both the company and the individuals.
It seems Gen Z are smarter with money than Millennials. In fact, 12% are already saving for retirement and a significant 21% of this generation of people aged 14 to 21 had a savings account before the age of ten!
Generation Z is already working, saving money, and determined not to ‘end up like Millennials’. 77% of Gen Z currently earn their own spending money through freelance work, a part time job, or earned allowance.
14. Work ethic
Gen Z have witnessed the struggle of their parents and older siblings and seen that the Millennials didn’t get the world handed to them on a plate. Because of this, Gen Z are growing up to be more practical, realistic, and have fewer expectations than Millennials did at the same age.
One area being explored at The Center for Generational Kinetics is whether or not Gen Z’s pragmatism carries over into how they approach work. Will they accept lower-paying jobs to get a foothold in a career or hold out hoping for something better to come along? One thing we do know is that teenage summer employment is at historically low rates, so early job experience is not taking shape for Gen Z the way it once did—even compared to Millennials.
Gen Z want to make the best of themselves and flourish rather than simply surviving so it’s important for employers to keep development options at the forefront. To lead Gen Z effectively, you must earn their loyalty. They expect employers, brands, and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on.
15. Entrepreneurial spirit
According to Gen Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.” Gen Z are leading the way in solopreneurship, entrepreneurship, and the gig economy. For them, working for themselves or in more independent working environments is more attractive than working for a company and being restricted to traditional rules, outdated hierarchies, and other corporate constraints and insecurities. 72% of teens say they want to start a business someday.
16. Work environment
Gen Z seek opportunities for creativity and innovation and do not like to be micro-managed. If you want to lead Gen Z, the old ‘control and command’ tactics of yesteryear won’t wash. They’ll expect flexibility, collective decision-making, recognition, and clear purpose and development paths. They will thrive in an environment where they are given ownership and are trusted to take risks without fear of recrimination.
What is most interesting is that what worked for Millennials does not seem to be working as well with Gen Z. This creates challenges and opportunities for businesses and leaders. The key differentiator between failure and success is getting accurate data about Gen Z early so leaders can adapt.
The differences and similarities between Gen Z and Millennials will be expressed over time, but the one thing we know is that there’ll be more data on Gen Z than on any generation in history!
Are you ready to lead Gen Z?
Jason Dorsey: http://jasondorsey.com/igen-gen-z/, The Centre for Generational Kinetics: http://genhq.com/, Huffington Post: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/george-beall/8-key-differences-between_b_12814200.html
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Louise Francis is our programme manager and a facilitator at Growing Organisations.
For more information on how you can increase the performance and fulfillment of your people and accelerate trust, flow, and growth, contact the Growing Organisations office.