(Update: As of January 2019, we have adopted the term Gen Z for referring to the generation after Millennials. This does not affect the traits or values discussed here. Read more about our move away from Gen Edge and what it means.)
Who Is Gen Edge?
It’s quite easy to refer to all people under age 35 as Millennials. Easy, sure, but so, so wrong! Gen Edgers may be the kid sisters to the Millennial generation, but they’re anything but replicas of their older sibs. You might have heard this group of 61 million, born 1996–2010, called a variety of monikers. From the clever (iGen), to the literal (Digital Natives), to the boring (Gen Z; sorry, we have to call it like it is), we’ve settled on calling them Gen Edge for two main reasons. First, they’re growing up on a literal cultural edge—they’ll be the last generation with a Caucasian majority and have expanded views of diversity. Second, they’re growing up with an edge—created by exposure to constant streams of violence and first-hand news from social media and as a result of living under the same roof as their honest Xer parents. To majorly oversimplify: if the generations were animals, Millennials would be the fluffy “LOVE ME ALL THE TIME!” Golden Retrievers and Edgers would be the cool “I’ll come to you when I’m ready” tabby cats. Absurd analogies aside, keep in mind the following three trends that could help predict how this generation will show up in the workplace.
Edgers have grown up in the aftermath of the Great Recession, and their realistic, no-BS Xer parents have led by example in such trying times. As a family, Xers and Edgers watched in dismay as Millennials—even Millennials in their own families—got pulverized by student debt and struggled to live independently. Seeing these realities hit so close to home, Edgers are now absolutely concerned about affording college. But instead of just worrying about it, they’re saving for it (and possibly still worrying about it). Sixty-four percent of Gen Edge has started researching and collaborating on financial planning, and as a whole, their generation is using personal finance and payment apps at almost the same rate as Millennials. Gen Xers could write a Surviving Recessions for Dummies book, so they’re no doubt teaching their children how to be successful in an unfair world that’s burned them many times before. End dramatic monolog.
Millennials know their way around an iPhone: if it’s frozen, turn it off and on. Boom. IT professional. But if you thought Millennials were tech-confident, wait till you meet an Edger. These gals and guys are so comfortable in the digital world, one could say they’re digital natives. Gen Edge has high expectations for technology, and they expect the world to keep up with them. What’s more, they’re using their unlimited access to information and their unrestricted, far-reaching voices on social media to empower one another and enact change. They’re quick to tweet at companies for customer service issues and catch first-hand video of an injustice (known as “citizen journalism”). It’s a mad, mad world, but Edgers balance their constant exposure to real-world conflicts and negativity with inclusive online communities and uplifting messages from YouTube stars. They’re innate multi-taskers and stay tuned into multiple content outlets at once—Snapchat, Twitter, texting, and other conversational outlets have been in their pockets and backpacks since roughly 5th grade.
Unforgiving Exposure to Violence
Much like in the districts of The Hunger Games, violence is widely publicized in Gen Edgers’ lives; it’s become a condition and, rather unfortunately, a “normal” one, however normal violence can be. Events like Sandy Hook, the Boston Marathon Bombing, the Orlando nightclub shooting, and terrorism in Paris are no longer isolated incidents. These traumatic events happened one after the other throughout Edgers’ formative years, and Edgers got real-time Twitter notifications while trying to figure out their algebra homework or walking the dog. Because of this, Gen Edge has developed an “edge” and sees the world through a realistic and pragmatic lens. Some have become desensitized and assimilated to violence, while others demand and act in the name of change, equality, and inclusion.
How will Edgers show up in the workplace?
We still have a lot to learn about this generation, given that most have yet to graduate college, but the research we conducted for our report on Early Millennials, Recessionist Millennials, and Gen Edgers helped shed light on this arena. We know they’ll perhaps exhibit some Gen X characteristics, but what traits will make them a generation all their own?
- Diverse & Inclusive: Gen Edge will be the last generation in the United States to be of Caucasian majority. For many, the Obamas were the first presidential family they can remember. Being diverse means seeing diversity and, one step further, expecting it from any and all institutions they align themselves with. And this generation ain’t about the lip service; you gotta walk the walk or they’ll walk…right out of your office.
- Resilient: From a young age, Edgers learned to cope, manage, and move on from difficult situations as best they can. As they learned to get past the violence that regularly litters their social media feeds, their Xer parents are also teaching them practicality and resourcefulness. Combined, these circumstances make for resilient Edger employees that will persevere through trying projects, clients, and times. When the going gets tough, refer to a Gen Edger.
- Connected: Edgers may see a payphone on the street and react much like this kid. They’ve always had cell phones, and they expect up-to-date technology. Physically dialing a phone? Searching the yellow pages? Get a grip, Grandpa! Edgers have well-categorized social apps, contacts, and search engines on their devices, and they use them on the reg. This expectation of constant digital connectivity will follow them to the workplace, with pros and cons. Pros? They’ll be your go-to for gadget recommendations and may be willing to help others. Cons? They may appear to be tech-obsessed and lacking in person-to-person communication skills. They may also get annoyed if their job description starts to look more like IT.