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What Can We Learn From Generation Z?

With so much focus on millennials, industries risk overlooking the rapidly maturing generation of post-millennials

2Dec

Today attention is focused around millennials, particularly, their consumer preferences and career choices. Industry practitioners and analysts spend a lot of time and effort preparing strategies on how to market to millennials, measure their market size, and how to deal with them in the workplace. Right behind millennials, though, there is another rapidly maturing generation of post-millennials. This generation will represent one-third of the US population by 2020, so the mystery around them must be solved soon if companies want to stay relevant.

So what's special about post-millennials?

Generation Z has essentially been brought up by innovation. This generation were born between 1996-2010, a period of rapid technological development, which means their formation and views of the world have been significantly influenced by technology. Post-millennials have never known a world without social media, smartphones, advanced tools and wireless connection, which creates both challenges and opportunities.

Surrounded by an environment of continuous updates, post-millennials grasp information and learn about new technology faster than previous generations. The downside is that, as a result, attention spans are even lower than among millennials, so marketers will need to work harder on their branding strategies.

Regarding the workplace, lower attention span will be compensated by their ability to multi-task. Whether in school or at home, they are naturally capable of participating in a number of activities simultaneously. For example, they can type their homework using a computer, do their research on a tablet, whilst checking the latest from social media and watching TV. This doesn't mean they can't concentrate, but demonstrates their ability to switch between work and entertainment without losing productivity.

In times where companies are desperate for digital and tech talents to further accelerate innovation, post-millennials can provide a solution. So as an employer, it would be wrong to underestimate their natural tech talents and turn youngsters away only because they may not see the world through the prism of previous generations and perform tasks differently.

However, the bond with technology is not the key aspect to focus on, it's their background that matters the most. Whilst millennials grew up in a relatively calm time, Gen Z emerged in the period of 9/11, with continuous external threats, economic recession, and uncertainty. Those factors have made them more concerned about issues with safety and privacy as a result. Unlike more adventurous millennials, Generation Z is more cautious and more likely to avoid risky behaviors or unstable career opportunities, and according to Forbes, they are forged less by passion and more by practical realities.

In regards to their views, we shouldn't undermine the fact that post-millennials were born in a period when same-sex marriage has become possible, a black president is the norm, and voices of minorities are recognized more than ever. So, the group expects the world to develop with the same degree of social and technological progress as they simply can't imagine the world in a different way.

Now is the right time for businesses and communities to start preparing for the arrival of Generation Z to the workplace and recognize them as the next largest consumer group in the US. As with any generation, they will require new approaches, business models, and attitudes, so no one should expect that the path to adapting to the new generation will ever be easy.

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