For the first time ever, there are five different generations of employees and customers side-by-side in the marketplace. This is creating all kinds of new challenges for even the most experienced CEOs, employers, marketers, and leaders across Texas. The newest generation, Generation Z, is driving numerous new trends and shaping the future. This rapidly emerging generation is diverse, connected, and vocal. Over the next five years, Gen Z will become the fastest-growing generation in the workforce on a percentage basis. Moreover, now that they’re up to age 24, Gen Z also offers the most important preview of the future, from consumer preferences and behaviors to communication norms, investing approach, recruiting strategies, and much more.
What does Gen Z think about the future? That is exactly what smart leaders need to know now, especially as Gen Z will become the cohort of employees and consumers that will support growth for years—and likely decades—post-pandemic.
At our research and strategy center, The Center for Generational Kinetics, we continually study each generation to uncover their hidden mindsets, perspectives, and behavioral drivers—as well as what works (and what doesn’t!) to unlock their potential as customers and employees. In our latest State of Gen Z study, now in its fifth year, we specifically asked Gen Zers to share their beliefs, views, and approach to the future as well as the impact of the pandemic on them at this formative time in their lives.
The insights they provided were fascinating, surprising, and actionable. We found what CEOs and organizational leaders need to know to bridge the gap in accurately understanding and engaging this generation at the most critical period in their emergence into adulthood.
Before we share five of the key research findings, a bit of background about Gen Z: this new generation does not remember 9/11; for them, it has always been history. They also do not remember a time before smartphones or social media. In fact, they consider the 1990s vintage! Yes. Vintage. This generation is the most diverse in US and Texas history, and they deeply want to make their mark on the world.
What are some key insights we uncovered in our latest State of Gen Z study? Here are five important findings that leaders need to know:
- Generation Z believes that COVID-19 is their generation-defining moment. They view this experience as the one that is most deeply shaping their views, attitudes, and beliefs about the future. This is particularly pronounced for older members of Gen Z, who are ages 18 to 24. This group was expecting to become more self-reliant as they ventured further into adulthood, yet so often they had their plans derailed right when they were getting their feet under them. In fact, our studies have shown that during the pandemic, Gen Z was the generation most likely to lose their job, lose work hours, or see a reduction in pay.
- COVID-19 has impacted how Gen Z views their relationship with their parents. Of all Gen Zers currently living with their parents in the US, our national study found that 45 percent plan to continue living with their parents longer than they originally planned. In fact, 50 percent of Gen Z males said they planned to live with their parents longer than planned—so don’t turn their bedroom into your new home office just yet.
- Gen Z has the most confidence in healthcare workers during this period of time. In our national study, we asked Gen Z what organizations and professional roles they have the most confidence in right now. The number-one group they selected was healthcare workers (doctors, nurses, medics, etc.). Of all the organizations and roles we asked about, the group Gen Z had the least confidence in was US government leaders, including the president and Congress.
- The pandemic is causing a lot of career and education second-guessing. A full 48 percent of Gen Zers ages 16 to 24 who are currently employed are now considering changing careers because of the uncertainties caused by the pandemic. Going even younger, 40 percent of all high school students ages 14 to 18 are reconsidering where to go to college or whether they even want to go. When we step back and look at the larger age range of 13 to 24, 40 percent of all Gen Zers are rethinking their career because of the pandemic. That is a huge number given the size of the generation and the amount of resources and schooling that is going into helping them prepare now for their future.
- Gen Z is finding positives amid all the challenges, changes, and uncertainty. More than half of Gen Z—59 percent—believe they will begin saving more money because of the pandemic. That bodes well for the generation who also says they want to graduate college with as little debt as possible. In our other recent studies, we found that Gen Z values employee benefits very highly when considering a job, usually in the top three most important considerations, which is much higher than other traditional perks offered to younger employees.
Our research shows that this rapidly emerging, exciting generation presents a huge opportunity for business leaders to understand them, adapt, and grow with the generation as they drive more influence, purchasing power, and workforce importance. Right now, Gen Z is developing their brand loyalty, choosing career pathways, and influencing every other generation through social media. This is the time for leaders to learn about Gen Z and take action to unlock their potential.
In future columns, we’ll dive into specific actions for leaders, in areas ranging from employment to marketing. For now, take the first step and ask a Gen Zer how the pandemic has impacted their views about the future—it’s a conversation worth having. It’ll show how a singular global event can impact different generations in the same exact city or region differently. Uncovering that generational context can help each of us become better leaders and come together when we most need it.