Learning from Gen Z

After much media attention has been given to Generation Y, Generation Z are now the youngest generation in the workforce.

Whilst I don’t like to generalise, I do think the different time periods we grow up in can shape our behaviour. Understanding this can help us relate to each other more and for businesses to relate to their target customer base. There is even a business of market researchers, cultural observers and trend forecasters looking to understand the Gen Z psychology!

With Gen Y (which I fall into) often in the media for our neediness and ‘brash, narcissistic, entitled’ nature, also being a higher purpose generation interested in social good, I was interested to see what the media’s portrayal of Gen Z was?

Having a read of the New York Times article ‘Move Over Millenials Here Comes Generation Z’ I discover the points below to which I add some thoughts: 

  • First true digital natives – Gen Z have grown up with smartphones which didn’t yet exist when I was a young teenager. To them communicating through this medium is seamless.  
  • Conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future – Gen Z seem to have more pressure academically on them and have grown up in a world where terror attacks have been common  
  • More aware of their personal brand – Gen Z on the whole seem a bit more cautious when it comes to openly posting publicly online having watched and learned from Gen Y mistakes – choosing more private channels  
  • Inclusive – many Gen Z’s are growing up in multi-cultural environments making this their norm and are also champions for same sex marriage 
  • Big dreamers – Gen Z are seeing start ups make it big and are dreaming big themselves, looking to follow their passions even if it isn’t a traditional path to success.  

So what can we learn from Gen Z?

I had the privilege of hanging out with two Gen Zer’s (Kya and Bri) during the recent school holidays.

Here’s what I learnt:

  • You Tube stars are the new celeb – Sitting in a café one day, Bri suddenly got excited when she saw a You Tuber getting into a car. I quickly learned that You Tube stars such as the Dolan Twins are the idols of many Gen Z’s and are making a fortune at the same time by Vlogging (video blogging)! I heard from my husband Owain that You Tube is the second biggest search site after Google which this infographic brings to life. Businesses note this is the place to be! 
  • Move over Facebook it’s all about Instagram and Snapchat – As I had already picked up Gen Z mainly communicate over snapchat and Instagram (Insta) versus Facebook, Twitter and text messages which I am comfortable with! For businesses looking communicate with Gen Z it’s good to think about your comms channels. I learnt even party invites now come through Insta with their terms and conditions! 
  • Boyfriend Jeans are in – We were having a laugh with Kya and her parents that she was wearing her boyfriends jeans, the term for jeans rolled up at the bottom. It seems 90’s fashion has come back including ‘mum’ style jeans (lucky for me!). I had fun with the girls in Cotton On where they picked me a new outfit which was called trendy by some friends.  
  • Face to face connection still key amongst online relationships – Within lots of online messaging, seeing both Kya and Bri interacting with Ethan and Huw shows me face to face relationships are still very precious. They miss the boys when away and photos just aren’t the same as a physical cuddle.  

Spending time with Kya and Bri was a good reminder to me to ensure we have diversity within our network and learn from each other.  
Here are a handful of ways that help me relate to Gen Z that may be useful for others: 

  1. Ask for help with your digital challenges – I find they love to help  
  2. Really listen and be curious with your questions  
  3. Look to share experiences – in an online world, the face to face experiences you create can be the most meaningful.  
  4. Go shopping together and let them dress you! 
  5. Brainstorm their ideas, supporting their dreams and big goals  

So what can we expect for Ethan (2) and Huw’s (6 months) generation? The alphabet has run out at Z, so I guess we go back to A?! Research based futurist Mark McCrindle led a campaign to call anyone born after 2010, Generation Alpha.

Business Insider writes, “Alpha kids will grow up with iPads in hand, never live without a smartphone, and have the ability to transfer a thought online in seconds. These massive technological changes, among others, make Generation Alpha the most transformative generation ever, according to McCrindle.”

For Ethan and Huw self driving cars and robots may become the norm, what I hope remains is the art of human connection and quality conversation.

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