It’s sometimes hard to see beyond the bad news, but the world is approaching an age of abundance. For example, solar power is exponentially improving in terms of efficiency, and the cost is falling at a similar rate. Being able to desalinate seawater (solar powered) will transform the equatorial world and will lead to an abundance of food. Other technologies are also improving exponentially but as we are hardwired to pay attention to bad news it’s easy to miss the good stuff. Generation Z is joining the world of work at a pivotal moment in our evolution. They will take all the current huge advances in technology innovation and build a new world.
Why do we need to understand Gen Z? well because they are the ones that will take all this emerging technology and decide what to do with it in the world of work. Are they likely to be resistant, or are they likely to embrace it, improve it and look for new and exciting areas to employ it?
Marketers like to put people in boxes and characterise those boxes so they can sell them stuff. It works. Mosaic, run by Experian is a great example of how customers and/or citizens can be broken down into categories in order to anticipate and target their specific needs. Characterising the generations is another example. If only we knew what drives the next generation, the one with the next pot of cash to spend, we can develop products and service offerings to suit them. The next major generational shift has been christened ‘Generation Z’ or the ‘Digital natives’.
Who is Generation Z?
Generation Z is the generation that followed the Millennials. Remember the Millennials? They’re the people born in the 20 years or so between the early 80s and mid 90’s. Right now, in 2017 the leading edge of Millennials are in their late 30s and moving into positions of leadership or at least challenging Gen X leaders and managers. That will continue over the next 20 years. Generation Zs were born roughly between ’95 and ’10. They are the children of Generation X and perhaps of the early Millennials.
It’s important to note that these generational definitions and differences are largely led by the efforts of marketing and advertising organisation to attribute certain characteristics to the various cohorts.
Why do we need to understand Gen Z? well because they are the ones that will take all this emerging technology and decide what to do with it in the world of work. Are they likely to be resistant, or are they likely to embrace it, will they improve it and look for new and exciting areas to employ it?
- In the 15 years between ’95 and ’10 in the UK c11.7M births were recorded;
- During that period the population has grown by 5.6M from 64.8M to 69.8M, an increase of c.8%;
- During that period the working age population shrunk as Baby Boomers retired, this is a trend that will continue, and
- From 2017 Gen X will become increasingly important as the working age population shrinks and by 2030 they will represent the core of the working age population.
Gen Z – Characteristics
At the time of writing, Gen Zs are between 22 and 7 years old. Unless they took time out to travel, the leading edge of university graduates of this cohort have entered the workplace. Those that opted for a vocation as opposed to higher or further education might have been working for around 4 or 5 years. So they are arriving in the workplace and they are starting their careers. They are the apprentices, the junior doctors and the trainee lawyers. They might also be unemployed. In the summer of 2017 the unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds not in full-time education was 10.3%, compared to 11.9% a year ago. So in mid-2017 90% of the leading edge of the Gen Z’s are either working or in full-time education.
So just who are they? what are they worried about and what do they love? So what might be the effect of being born to Generation X parents between the mid 90’s and before 2010? Well for a start Gen Zs have been born into the Internet age. In her book Generation Z,(2015) Chloe Combi describes numerous examples of GenZ teenagers who spend the vast majority of their waking hours on the internet, via their phones or laptops. They are prolific users of social media. The book also describes an inter GenZ discussion where one or both protagonists express total disbelief that there was once no internet. Indeed this is what differentiates GenZs from their predecessors.
What were the parents of Gen Zs concerned about while they were raising their offspring?
Most Gen Zs are the children of the tail end of Baby Boomers and of the Gen Xs. We know that parental influence is very important in a child’s formative years so in understanding Gen Z we need to understand the late Boomers and Gen X. The late baby boomers were the first generation born in NHS hospitals, indeed they were born into the post-war consensus of rebuilding and of the welfare state. They have also seen the limits of the state and the privatisations of the 80s. They saw the winter of discontent in the 70s, and the taming of the trade unions in the 80s. They were pre-teenagers in the early 80s when the UK’s economic model switched from a somewhat managed and centrally controlled economy to a more market-driven economy. The difference between the late 70s and the late 80s early 90s was stark. For most people, it was an exciting time where de-regulation of markets led to technological innovations that laid the foundations of today’s giant leaps forward. All of this wasn’t just happening in the UK, but also in the US. Western economies were leading the way. For some it wasn’t’ all rosy, changes in the economy and manufacturing based brought unemployment and worry, especially in the early 80s.
- The Generations
What’s different about GenZ?
- They gobble up information quickly, reading and moving on. Advertising is now being limited to 5 words if adverts consist of more than 5 words it won’t reach GenZs;
- GenZs are less likely to overshare their private lives online, unlike their showy predecessors the Millennials. They are more cautious of leaving a permanent history on social media;
- Same-sex marriage and a black American president are a given and as a result, GenZs are much more open to cultural diversity than their predecessors, they expect continuous social progress;
- GenZs always wear seatbelts and are less likely to smoke and drink. Having been raised in uncertain times by GenX parents they are drawn to safety. Their career choices are being made with practicality in mind as opposed to passion;
- As risk avoiders, they are much more pragmatic about accessing state support, and
- They are totally comfortable messaging and managing virtual relationships.
Generation Z will be the generation that will be providing the intellectual energy that will utilise emerging technologies like automation, AI and machine learning for our good.