Millennials have starred in marketing headlines for the past several years.
While few agree on exactly where the cut-off between Millennials and Generation Z is, (is it 1995? 97? 98?) everyone can agree that a new generational cohort has arrived on the scene.
Why should you care, and how does Generation Z impact your business?
They may all look young. But Millennials and members of the subsequent Generation Z are markedly different in how they shop, interact with brands, and view money.
If you’re a marketer, you’ll need to tailor your messages to reach a new audience.
If you’re a business owner or manager, you’ll need to figure out what these new employees will be looking for and how to get the most out of your working relationship with them.
Here are 5 key differences between Generation Z and Millennials, and our perspective on how these differences will impact your business.
- Generation Z is more entrepreneurial.
- Generation Z is more realistic.
- Generation Z has a shorter attention span.
- Generation Z grew up with personal brands.
- Generation Z has higher expectations.
Let’s examine each of these differences in detail.
1. Generation Z is More Entrepreneurial
While entrepreneurship – a staple element of the American Dream – has ironically been in decline in the US for several decades, Generation Z may be on the verge of turning that trend around.
According to serial entrepreneur and best-selling author Deep Patel:
Generation Z is 55% more likely to want to start a business than millennials. In fact, a full 72% of Gen Z high school students say that they want to start a business.
If Gen Z follows through on these aspirations, they very well may reinvigorate the American entrepreneurial landscape for years to come.
But, what is motivating this trend?
Altitude’s Jeremy Finch writes for FastCompany:
Recent reports have labeled Gen Z the “entrepreneurial generation” and highlighted their desire to forsake the corporate grind for their own startups. We found that while Gen Z like the idea of working for themselves, the majority are risk-averse, practical, and pragmatic. Their supposed entrepreneurialism is actually more of a survival mechanism than an idealist reach for status or riches.
Each generation is shaped by the events that occurred as they grew and evolved.
Generation Z is coming of age, having witnessed the struggles of the 2008 economic crisis. They saw the resulting changes in their world – even if they didn’t understand them at the time.
These events inevitably left their mark and likely explain Gen Z’s desire to control their own economic future.
But, whatever the reason, Generation Z is poised to take their financial future in hand.
And, they’ll probably re-shape the American economy as they do.
Gen Z is equally as likely to become your competition as they are to become your employee. Be prepared to offer autonomy, flexibility, and fair financial compensation as part of your terms of employment if you want to have any hope of enticing these workers to your business.
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2. Generation Z is More Realistic
Millennials, fairly or not, are forever branded as the entitled generation of the participation trophy.
But, Millennials didn’t choose this path for themselves. It was a by-product of their upbringing. Millennials grew up in a time of financial prosperity. As did their parents – the Baby Boomers.
The Boomers were the product of the golden age of American capitalism. In such a positive economy, it was much easier for Baby Boomers to achieve financial security.
Millennials dutifully absorbed the lessons of their parents – and naturally expected that when they followed the same prescribed steps, it would lead to the results they were promised.
Is that entitlement? Or merely a nasty bait and switch?
Whatever the case, as a result, Millennials appear to be more optimistic than Generation Z.
Generation Z is coming to the workforce with a completely different perspective than their predecessors. Altitude’s research reveals that:
On a professional level, Gen Z are hyperaware of the negative stereotypes that have plagued millennials. As a result, they want to be known for their ability to work hard and persevere offline.
Ryan Jenkins, an expert on the differences between Millennials and Generation Z, reveals:
Seventy-seven percent of Generation Z expect to work harder than previous generations.
Millennials became optimistic thanks to their encouraging Baby Boomer parents and growing up in a time of prosperity and opportunity. Generation Z will be realistic thanks to their skeptical and straight-shooting Generation X parents and growing up in a recession. According to Pew Charitable Trusts, during the Great Recession, the median net worth of Generation Z’s parents fell by nearly 45 percent.
Generation Z is walking in with their eyes wide open.
This is not the golden age of capitalism. And they know it.
A booming economy isn’t waiting to support them with open arms and easy paydays.
And they’re ready to work.
Give these young employees space and autonomy to shine. They are driven to work hard, so let them do that in their most productive way.
Marketers, Gen Z is pragmatic and careful with their money. Make the value you offer very clear if you expect to make a sale.
3. Generation Z Has a Shorter Attention Span
While Millennials grew up as modern technology took hold, Generation Z has been saturated in it from day one. Deep Patel explains:
Millennials are hard to keep engaged, but Gen Z’s attention is even more split. On average, millennials use three screens (and bounce between them intermittently). Gen Zers use five: smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop and tablet.
It’s true that Generation Z tends to bounce from device to device, screen to screen, but it may be too reductive to call them attention-deficient.
With endless options for entertainment, information, and communication, Gen Z has no tolerance for wasted time. Do they have a short attention span? Or a fast filter?
Jeremy Finch opts for the latter:
Gen Z have a carefully tuned radar for being sold to and a limited amount of time and energy to spend assessing whether something’s worth their time. Getting past these filters, and winning Gen Z’s attention, will mean providing them with engaging and immediately beneficial experiences. One-way messaging alone will likely get drowned out in the noise.
Knowing this, it will be essential to capture attention quickly and to be present on multiple platforms to ensure that you make it through these filters. Patel lays it out:
If you want them to click on your blog post, watch your video or like your Instagram photo, you need to help them understand what the content is about, why they should care and how it will help or entertain them.
And you need to do it in eight seconds or less. This is an art, and it’s not easy. It’s why today’s best content creators are in such demand.
Generation Z’s discerning eye is waiting to see what you have to offer.
To help pierce the noise, targeted messaging will become that much more important as Generation Z begins to influence the market. Getting the right message on the right platform at the right time will be key.
And keeping those messages consistent will also be important. Consistency starts with strong branding, including the company name and logo design, and continues with delivering on your brand’s promises.
Employers will need to present interesting challenges as well as opportunities to learn and evolve in their roles to keep Gen Z engaged in the workplace.
4. Generation Z Grew Up With Personal Brands
Millennials remember Myspace. But, social media has been a part of Generation Z’s lives for as long as they can remember.
As a result, Gen Z approach social media differently.
Millennials tend to splash every detail of their lives on their social media accounts. However, Generation Z takes more care in curating the content they share and the image they present on social media.
Millennials and Generation Z expert, Jeff Fromm describes this phenomenon:
Through social media, they meticulously curate their personal brand to reflect how they want to be perceived. Unlike the millennial generation, Pivotals [Generation Z] only share specific stories, to specific people, on specific channels.
Generation Z understands the importance of “code-switching” (adapting to the language of the cultural context in which they find themselves).
Their personal brands are reserved for recreational social media platforms. And their professional persona will be managed separately.
This privacy is very important for Gen Z. Ryan Jenkins shares that:
Seventy percent of Generation Z would rather share personal information with their pet than with their boss.
Understanding and respecting this desire for privacy will be important when it comes to connecting with and managing Gen Z.
And, if marketers hope to reach this audience, they need to be just as savvy in curating targeted appropriate content for specific channels.
5. Generation Z has Higher Expectations
You should know by now that Millennials value authenticity in the brands with which they do business.
This is true for Generation Z as well.
But, Gen Z take it one step further. Like their older cohort, Gen Z is vigilant against ads and being “sold.” But, they also expect to be a part of something bigger. Deep Patel points out:
According to a recent report, 60% of Gen Zers want their jobs to impact the world, and 76% are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.
This means that if you’re a big brand with a social responsibility element, it’s really about walking the walk. Whether you’re selling to or hiring Gen Zers, you should realize they are going to know very quickly whether they’re part of something special or are caught in another big-talk campaign.
This new generation is bringing high expectations and a sense of social responsibility with them. And, is it any wonder?
Generation Z was watching and listening as the 2016 election divided our country as never before.
Serious questions about the direction for our country were raised. Will we be inclusive or divisive? Will we take care of our own through social support and healthcare? Will we take steps to protect the planet on which we all live?
Generation Z has opinions and they want to make an impact. Patel explains:
Gen Z is open minded, and believe there’s plenty of room for everyone to thrive together.
This is important for big brands to note. Now more than ever, consumers are eagerly looking to the big brands and companies of the world to facilitate these major changes…
Your messaging needs to be intelligent, thoughtful and inclusive. It’s not about proving that you’re right and someone else is wrong. It’s about including everyone together.
Gen Z is already tired of the status quo. They want their role to make a difference for the better. And they’re not waiting – they already have a strong influence on purchases:
If you’re looking to snag these young visionaries as employees, be prepared to show them how your business is making the world a better, more inclusive place.
And, if you want to sell to them, be ready to create an authentic brand with values they can get behind. For example, if you sell physical products, consider sustainable strategies when creating products and packaging design for those products.
The Future is Here
Millennials have already conquered the workforce. And, shortly, Generation Z is poised to make an equally significant impact.
Your business needs to adapt. Or it will become obsolete.
Gen Z is a driven, pragmatic and ambitious crowd.
You can create a welcoming environment for them, or become their competition.
They’re impatient with the choices that have been made for them; and, ready to start shaping the world in their own image.
Gen Zers are your next employees, co-workers, and consumers. If you get to know them for who they really are and what they really want, your business will thrive with them.
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