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3 Things You Need to Know About Generation Z

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A group of Generation Z members

Note: In the first of our three-part series, “A New Era: Here Comes Generation Z,” we take an introductory look at the generation coming after the millennial generation to find out what makes them unique.

According to Google Trends, the popularity of the term “millennials” has exploded in the past three years.

And it’s no wonder. The millennial generation—defined by Pew Research as people as born between 1981 and 1997—hit full stride in the workforce in the past few years.

Currently, there are five generations in the workplace:

  • Traditionalists, born between 1930–1945
  • Baby boomers, born between 1946–1964
  • Generation X, born between 1965–1980
  • Millennials, born between 1981–1997
  • Generation Z, born after 1997

According to PwC, by 2020, millennials will make up 50% of the workforce. But as quickly as millennials swept into the workforce, another even larger generation is arriving: Generation Z.

Generally speaking, Generation Z tends to be more independent, and they view their world with a healthy dose of skepticism—something their Generation X manager may appreciate, but a trait that group-minded boomers and millennials may misunderstand.

Given how Generation Z is developing, they are positioned to be a disruptive factor in the workplace. They’re a larger, more diverse, more technologically advanced and stunningly different group than millennials.

How employers prepare for and manage these emerging, disruptive factors will determine whether they create an amazing organizational culture that benefits both employee and employer—or if they completely miss the mark.

How will your company adapt? Here are the three things every company needs to know about Generation Z:

1. They’re Pragmatic Entrepreneurs

Being raised in the shadow of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and by Generation X parents who passed along their street-smart sense of self-reliance, Generation Z has become a very pragmatic, entrepreneurial generation. They’ve seen challenging financial issues first-hand from at a young age: the loss of a parent’s job, a foreclosure or the inability for a sibling to find work after college graduation, for instance.

They don’t want to take chances on a self-fulfilling career path that could lead them into debt. More than that, they’d like to be in charge of their own career—and the statistics reflect that:

  • A recent study found that 61% of high school students would like to be an entrepreneur, compared to 43% of college students.
  • The same study found that 72% would like to start a business someday, compared to 64% of college students.
  • 46.9% say their school offers classes in how to start and run a business, according to a Gallup report.

For employers looking to utilize this pragmatic entrepreneurial spirit within the corporate walls, it’s a great idea to motivate Generation Z team members to reward them in a meaningful way and care for their work-life balance. It’s important for employers to actively involve and engage them through intrinsic motivation.

2. There Are a Lot of Them

Just this past year, millennials outpaced baby boomers as the largest generation. But that won’t last long. Gen Z is a very large group and will surpass their boomer and millennial counterparts in numbers very quickly.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, more than a quarter of America’s population belongs to Generation Z. And, with each birth—approximately 360,000 global births per day—they’re getting bigger.

3. They’re Interested in Meaningful Social Change

Perhaps more than others before them, Generation Z has a chance to change the world for the better—and they’re taking it.

77% of high school students are either extremely or very interested in volunteering to gain work experience compared to 63% of college students.

On top of that, more than a quarter of 16-to-19-year-olds are currently volunteering, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report, and 60% of Generation Z want jobs that have a social impact, compared with 31% of millennials.

In general, Generation Z wants to be part of designing solutions to the problems they face, whether that means volunteering for the cause or something greater.  So, what does all this mean for employers?

The importance of community, both inside and outside your corporate walls, will grow along with Generation Z. In turn, the case for holistic employee wellbeing and corporate sustainability will become more compelling. In the very near future, it will be very important as employer and employee work together to build whole and sustainable companies.

In the next part of this series, we’ll take a look at what employers need to know about the diversity of Generation Z.