Remember when Generation X came out? It was the hot new buzz phrase in its time and described people born from the early 1960s to 1970s who were seen as directionless.
Then there was Generation Y, born roughly from the 1980s to 1990s, who were primarily the children of Baby Boomers. Also known as “Millennials,” this group was known for delaying adulthood responsibilities and having unrealistically expectations about entitlement.
Now there’s Generation Z, a subculture of people born sometime around 1995 and who are now entering college. Corey Seemiller, director of Leadership Programs at the University of Arizona explains, “Generations continue to get shorter and shorter. As they progress, technologically and socially, they are beginning to change more rapidly. So you can’t generalize generational characteristics over a 30-year period like we once did.”
Who is Generation Z? See highlights below from a release by the University of Arizona.
A Sharing Generation That’s All Technology, All the Time
Members of Generation Z live their lives online, and they love sharing both the intimate and mundane details of life, whether that be their relationship status, a restaurant review or an Instagram photo of themselves lounging on the beach. Seemiller cited research that found about 50 percent of Generation Z members will send at least 50 texts each day. This generation loves to contribute knowledge and opinions online. They like short words and phrases; therefore, Generation Z tends not to use blogs, detests emailing and avoids voice messaging which requires more text and time.
Generation Z and Millennials – Not the Same Thing
While both Generation Z and Millennials are collaborative, tech-savvy and socially engaged, major differences do exist. For example, Millennials are known to be very reward-oriented. For Generation Z, gratuitous praise is not as important. Unlike Millennials, Generation Z tends to be a bit less rebellious. Seemiller said. “They tend to follow authority because they respect their parents.” However, they still will question rules, regulations and traditions.
Generation Z + Parents = Besties
Unlike earlier generations, Generation Z appears to have much more in common with their parents, and they trust them. Generation Z is not embarrassed of their parents. “They aren’t just helicopter parents; Generation Z will consult their parents. That means their parents have a different role,” Seemiller said. “They are more likely to see their parents, rather than celebrities, as heroes.”
Service with Purpose
While Generation Z members do appear to have more of an appreciation for authority figures, such as their parents, that does not mean that they do not question the establishment. Generation Z is hugely concerned with sociopolitical issues, locally and globally. They tend to be acutely aware that they live in pluralistic society and tend to embrace diversity.
“Because of the power of social networking and the Internet, they are incredibly aware of what is going on around them in the world,” Seemiller said. “They are incredibly connected in that sense, and are more aware that there are a lot of social justice issues and other deep seated problems. They have to have an emotional connection to a problem and feel like they are addressing the problem, not the symptoms. I see this as a generational shift. They want it to count for something; they want to delve much deeper into the problem.”
Expectations for the Future
Generation Z tends to be less optimistic about their futures than older generations because they have seen the U.S. and other nations enter wars and have experienced one of the most devastating economic declines in modern world history. Generation Z is aware of increasing college costs with unprecedented rates of loan defaults and huge unemployment rates.
“They are a little bit more cautious than the Millennials,” Seemiller said. “The Millennials were a more hopeful generation and grew up without a war and with a budget surplus. But not Generation Z.”
The current generation has been witness to numerous school shootings. They are familiar with September 11, 2001 and are acutely aware of international relations. They were there when their parents lost their jobs and when homes foreclosed at record levels. “They are not cynical and they are not overly optimistic; they are cautious,” Seemiller said. “And they are more realistic in terms of their outlook.”
They are Game Changers
This is the generation that can Google just about anything and find an answer. Seemiller said: “So if you are having a workshop on the 10 steps of conflict management, why would they come if they can Google ’10 steps of conflict management?'” That does not mean that Generation Z is disinterested; it means they are engaged in a different way.
“Gen Z really relies on its network of relationships and believes that their peers are more influential in their learning,” Seemiller said. “They learn by sharing among themselves and believe no one is an expert, but that everyone is the expert because there are a bazillion people with knowledge.”
All of this information is valuable to keep in mind, whether it’s a marketing company trying to reach this generation or parents trying to understand how to communicate better with their Generation Z children.