By Daniel Burris
Hard Trends have three distinct categories — demographics, regulation, and technology — each of which help you find certainty in an uncertain world. While all are vital, demographics are quickly taking precedence, and one in specific will greatly impact business in the near future.
In my recent Opportunity Hour: Conversations with the Masters, I interviewed Jason Dorsey, a behavioral researcher and Anticipatory Leader who has led more than a hundred groundbreaking behavioral research studies globally. His passion is uncovering hidden behavioral trends that other Anticipatory Leaders can use to drive measurable results.
In authoring his newest bestselling book, titled Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business — and What to Do About It, Jason reveals the ways in which business leaders can adapt to the dynamic nature of a generation that is unlike all the others currently in the workforce. Together, he and I unboxed common characteristics of Gen Z and their professional roles in the United States and around the world.
The Ambiguity of Generations
We cannot begin a discussion about Gen Z without first addressing the way in which we traditionally define a generation. Believe it or not, the range of years is not the only indicator.
“One major characteristic of generations has to do with a generation being a segment of a geographically linked population experiencing similar social and cultural events at roughly the same time in their maturation,” Jason states.
Birth dates and geographical locations certainly help us define what a generation is, but to Jason, understanding what a generation is not is also crucial.
“Generations are not a box!” Jason exclaims. “Generations are incredibly powerful and predictive clues that business leaders can utilize to build trust and drive influence to improve the lives of these individuals professionally and personally.”
In contemporary society, the “box” concept of generations makes us believe that they are easily defined. Instead, replace that concept with the idea that generations are actually clues allowing us to better connect with individuals of all ages, and in the case of this study specifically, Gen Z.
What Is a Generation’s Defining Moment?
Each generation has a defining moment and generally, it happens during their teen years. This incredibly insightful trend explains how they are likely to behave in the future. Here is a better look into what a defining moment is:
My mother was a teenager during the Great Depression — a socially and economically impactful occurrence that determined how she would behave as she entered adulthood after the depression ended. Others include the Vietnam War, the Great Recession, and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The reason teen years matter in this case is that you have to be old enough to understand what’s going on to really create context around it, but young enough for it to shape your views going forward,” Jason explains.
When we consider what shapes Gen Z, the oldest members of Gen Z were shaped by the last two massive trends — the Great Recession and COVID-19.
“Gen Z didn’t personally struggle during the Great Recession, as they were merely 12 years old,” Jason says. “However, their parents did, and they were entering their teen years observing their parents lose houses, jobs, and money.”
“And then the second big event, which we’re all going through, is COVID-19,” Jason says “And for many, they were now old enough to be impacted by this change themselves, as most who lost their job and faced a reduction of pay were in Gen Z.”
What Does Gen Z Do Now?
Both of these defining moments impacting Gen Z have caused them to view the professional working world much differently as they move into higher level careers.
Two trends that Jason Dorsey observed in his research is that strikingly, Gen Z is much more practical with their money, being predisposed to save their earnings and placing a huge priority on starting salary. They also demonstrate that they believe they are going to have to work longer and harder.
But this does not mean that Gen Z will take any job and say yes to everything. The following trend that directly applies to Gen Z will help worldwide corporations gain and retain these individuals:
Gen Z is statistically the most consistent generation in the world thanks to having access to mobile technology driving education, entertainment, and communication. The original definition of a generation being age and geography does not apply. This should make it easier for an employer to hire them and keep them engaged no matter where they’ve come from geographically or their specific age.
Actionable Insights for Business Leaders Working with Gen Z
Actionable insights to consider as a business leader hiring Gen Z employees all start in the hiring process itself.
“Recruiting was not tailored to Gen Z,” Jason starts. “When you think about going out and trying to get a Gen Z individual to apply for a job, we’ve got to first solve some key hiring problems.”
First, Gen Z has to be able to apply for a job on their mobile device and save the job application as they go. This allows you as an employer to personalize their experience from the start. If they have expressed interest in the role, you can connect with them and ensure they are wanted and needed at your organization right away.
When putting job information out, remember that Gen Z values money tremendously. In the first paragraph of the job posting, Jason suggests disclosing the starting salary, benefits, and retirement perks.
Finally, always have a clear Futureview. Gen Z greatly considers their future and is a generation that wants stability. Once hired, find exponential ways to utilize technology to educate them and reassure them they have a solid future.
Gen Z is the future, just as the generations to follow them will be theirs. Be Anticipatory in how you hire and interact with your multigenerational workforce to see a transformative result in productivity, prosperity, and significance!