The generation after Millennials, Generation Z (Gen Z), includes those born from 1995 onward. At about 2.52 billion strong, Gen Z is the most populous generational cohort of all time. This group accounts for a quarter of the U.S. population, and by 2020, will make up 40 percent of all consumers. Understanding this generation will be critical to businesses and employers wanting to succeed in the next decade and beyond.
Gen Zers are mostly characterized as mobile, boundary-less and video-centric individuals who:
- Are self-starters, self-motivators and self-learners
- Place a premium on do-it-yourself, innovation and entrepreneurship
- Consider the internet the authority
- Respond to open, honest and timely messaging
- Prefer in-person, collaborative and transparent communication
- Expect a fun workplace, a flexible schedule and on-the-job training
While Millennials have sparked controversy over their “I’m going to quit my job and pursue my dreams” mentality, Gen Z has quietly learned from afar. Consider this: Gen Zers are the youngest sibling at the dinner table – getting wiser just from watching others and, of course, their mobile devices.
Here are seven tips for engaging Gen Zers.
Create value, not advertising. Gen Z is the first generation that has never known life without mobile technology and online access. They want profiles, data and channels that give them what they are looking for, whether that’s entertainment, knowledge or tutorials. If you put too much red tape in their way, they won’t even bother complaining, they’ll just move on.
Say it in eight seconds or less. Gen Z has what some describe as highly evolved “eight-second filters.” If you want them to watch a video, like an Instagram photo or click a blog post, you have just a few seconds to help them understand why they should care and how it will help or entertain them. Think of the 280 characters in a tweet.
Look like an industry leader, don’t just talk about it. If your website (especially the mobile version) looks like it was created five years ago, your message doesn’t matter – you look old. Gen Zers judge with their eyes first. Brands need to look current, designs need to be clean and crisp and content needs to be persuasive.
Be in multiple places. Millennials are difficult to keep engaged, and Gen Z’s attention span is even wider. While Millennials use on the average of three screens and bounce between them, Gen Z uses five: laptop, tablet, desktop, smartphone and smart television. Your messaging, for example, should be in print, broadcast, digital and more. Even better, think broader of the five basic senses: touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste.
Walk the walk, and talk the talk. About 60 percent of Gen Zers want their jobs to positively impact the world, 26 percent currently volunteer and 76 percent are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet. Businesses and employers should incorporate a social responsibility philosophy toward environmental, economic and social performance and the impact on internal and external stakeholders. Gen Zers will know quickly if they’re part of something special or are caught in a self-serving campaign.
Champion diversity and inclusivity. There’s no question a diverse and inclusive workforce fosters innovation and inspires collaboration. In fact, companies with diversity and inclusion programs realize a 67 percent improvement in candidate attraction, a 35 percent competitive advantage and almost twice the innovation output. Competition for the Gen Z workforce is strong, and top talent is rare. If an organization doesn’t try to understand, attract and engage different types of people with unique perspectives, it will lose out on the best candidates, increased productivity and some competitive advantages.
Be workplace ready. Gen Zers don’t think that “going to work” has anything to do with commuting. Work isn’t a place you go to, it is something that you do when you are with your technology. Gen Z is entrepreneurial, with some 37 percent wanting to be the leader of a company they start on their own. As such, they’ll require a mix of space for individual and collaborative work. This has led to a lot of debate about what’s best for the office of the future, including swing space, growth space and new space. Then, ponder clusters, phone booths, huddle rooms, war rooms, nap rooms and lactation rooms. Such amenities accommodate the needs of multiple generations, but particularly appeal to Millennials and Gen Zers who carefully guard their work-life balance and wellness.
Gen Z faces many of the challenges that everyone faces at that stage in life – moving from school to work, leaving home and creating their own identities. Yet, they’re doing so in an ultra-connected, world of high-velocity change.
Businesses and employers must recognize Gen Z’s differences and meet them where they are, rather than where we want them to be. Think differently. Reorganize priorities. Develop quicker reflexes. Create innovative responses. Find a way or make one. Stop doing what’s logical, and do what’s effective. Otherwise, brands risk being filtered into oblivion.