Photo of Introducing Gen Z

Introducing Gen Z

Who Are the Post-Millennials?

It’s a question that’s left organizations, researchers, and media outlets scratching their heads and scrambling to find out as much as possible. The world wants to know everything about this next generation before they’re all grown up, but these fledglings are still in their formative years—developing and learning how to interpret the world around them. Unless someone’s got a crystal ball stashed in their briefcase, we won’t have a full understanding of this generation until they’ve mostly hit their 20s. In the interim, however, it’s helpful to have a name for them.

A few years ago, we were inspired by The Sound’s decision to refer to the next generation as Gen Edge. It’s unique, interesting, and a bit more descriptive than a simple letter. But there’s no generational naming deity, and there’s no sure equation for calculating what name will catch on in the end. As this generation started trickling into the workforce, the public’s preference for referring to post-Millennials is unwavering: Generation Z.

There’s no denying that Gen Z is slowly but surely encroaching on life as we know it. Articles aplenty assess how they might develop as consumers, employees, and members of society. And for good reason. The eldest of Gen Z start turning 23 in 2019, so those who followed the traditional four-year-college path are just beginning to enter the workforce. Others have already been trickling into the workforce for a few years now. So the headlines are not entirely unwarranted.

 

Three Things to Know about Gen Z

With every passing season, a fresh batch of Gen Z graduates enters the workforce—equipped with AirPods and new expectations. From our research, focus groups, and consulting, we have noticed some emerging Gen Z tendencies and approaches that already frazzle managers, particularly in how they take direction and complete tasks in a regular work day. To ease these generational misunderstandings, we’ve compiled three key things the workplace should know about the next generation.

Inquisitive

We’ve picked up on Zers’ inquisitive nature through a few different tendencies. To begin with, they have a blatant desire to be actively aware and caring of social and political issues. Having grown up with ubiquitous internet access, there’s nothing to prevent them from exploring current events and their implications. In that same vein, Zers have learned they can quell any fleeting inquiry that comes to mind with just a few clicks. They don’t have to ask Mom and Dad or, heaven forbid, open an Encyclopedia. Rather, they simply find the answer online and move on. YouTube and Google are always there to faithfully serve their whims, because that’s all they’ve ever known. This inquisitive nature translates to the workplace as well, as they seek to know each detail about every task. They ask that managers give them all the necessary information up front, including expectations and a detailed roadmap—and while this can seem like an unnecessary burden, Gen Zers want all the deets so they can complete the task as perfectly as possible.

Risk-Averse

Raised by the sometimes-cynical Xer parents, witnessing the aftermath of the Great Recession, and streaming the flagrant dangers of the world live on Snapchat at any given time, Zers have caught wind that the world can be a not-so-forgiving place. They’ve learned the economy could collapse at any moment and ruin everyone in its wake, they’ve learned no one and nowhere is safe from violence and tragedy, and they’ve learned from parents and Millennials that student loans can mean financial wreckage. As a result, they face the world and the workplace seeking stability wherever they can find it to quell their anxieties about the future and allow them to enjoy the present. They want a stable job that allows them to save for retirement, and they’re hesitant to take risks at work or dabble with the stock market, because they want to guarantee absolute success as much as they can.

Industrious

Just because Zer employees might ask a lot of questions doesn’t mean they’re lazy. Tying in with their inquisitive nature, Zers’ competitive drive and fear of failure lead them to be hard-working individuals, seeking to complete everything to the best of their ability. Which means they’ll ask all the questions and research all the methods they need to accomplish something as close to perfect as they can. They tend to be quite the diligent bunch. On the other end of the spectrum, however, they might not meet your idea of “above and beyond” for fear of doing something wrong or wasting time.

 

These traits are just the beginning to understanding Gen Z, and more insights will come to fruition in the coming year. We’re eager to continue monitoring this cohort through our research, but in the meantime, if you’re interested in learning more about how Gen Z fits with other generations, check out our keynote offering and see how we can help your organization improve its recruiting and retention efforts.