Born after 1995, many of these young people are still studying, but quickly coming of age, meaning that wider society, from employers to big brands are looking at how to understand and engage them to avoid their time-consuming missteps with the millennial generation.
While it’s still too soon to say what will define this group (some are still in the cradle after all), certain hints are already being noted by observers:
The New Digital Natives
While the millennials have been touted as the first digital natives, it can be argued that Gen Z who grew up with the full complement of smartphones and social media truly now hold the title. They are naturals at technology, making use of Google Chat and Skype to discuss homework with classmates, and learning new skills via how-to lessons on Youtube.
Surprisingly, their immersion into tech may actually make them better face-to-face communicators than the millennial generation before them, as their casual interactions are now engaged through web visuals and sound instead of text.
2) Cautious pragmatists
Unlike the millennials, Gen Zs have grown up in a world of uncertainty, whether it’s been the financial crisis and 2008, the terror situation still unfolding, or the huge political shakeups like Brexit and Trump’s election. Having seen the preceding generation struggle in a flaccid job market, they recognise the need to pick up in-demand skills, even as many still retain a desire to convert their hobbies into jobs.
3) Not afraid of work
In contrast to the “entitled” millennial, more Gen Zs say they are willing to work more hours and weekends if it means earning higher pay. Pragmatism is mixed with aspiration as 74% still think that their work should serve a greater purpose (the company’s overall mission) rather than just earning a salary.
4) Retro Attitudes
In a decade characterised by liberal movements, the newest generation is rebelling and setting their own course by… becoming conservative. A study of teenagers in the UK found 59% of Gen Zs held “conservative” to “moderate” views on same sex marriage and transgender rights, a far cry from 83% of millennials whose views on these topics are “quite” or “very liberal”. Some final surprises: Gen Zs were also more likely to say they “hated” tattoos and unusual body piercings (11%), and are actually moving toward abstinence from alcohol – about one in five in Britain abstain completely.
Ironically, the generation marked by the final alphabet seems to embody a return to some ideas of past generations, even as it embraces the technology of tomorrow. Since they’re young and haven’t made it into the job market yet it’d be interesting to see what patience or staying power these qualities give them once they do.
By Vincent Tan