Generation Z

Just when you thought you’d heard all you needed to hear about Millennials, here comes another generation right behind them. Generation Z or Gen Z is the demographic cohort born in the mid-1990s to mid-2000s. Most of Gen Z have used the Internet since a young age and are more comfortable with technology and social media than their predecessors.

As a quick reminder, the earlier sequence runs: Baby Boomers, Generation X and Y (Millennials). I’m a Boomer, if you’re interested. By coincidence Boomer is also the US Navy slang term for a ballistic missile submarine, which goes some way to accounting for my mood most mornings.

Africa has participated fully in Generations X, Y and Z – which is why I am talking to you about demography today. Here in Africa, as everywhere on the planet, Gen Z are your new generation of customers and employees. So best you understand something about them.

Gen Z is proving to be an elusive generation to pin down, mainly because much of the information out there about them often contradicts itself. But Google search indicates some of the perceptions and prejudices the world already attaches to them:

‘They’re entitled’

‘They’re job hoppers’

‘Everything has come so easily to them – they’re lazy’

‘Can’t take criticism’

To be fair, the research I have read suggests that they have inherited much of this perceptual baggage from Millennials. That was the generation that worked hard to own new technology and to make a new impression on the world of work. That impression was so contrary to established norms that managers and HR professionals revolted against it. However, in my daily work in organisational culture transformation I have to say that I find Millennial perspectives and energy helpful. Even if they come across as precious and petulant sometimes.

Latest insights from Europe suggest some lightening of the mood in this new cohort. Gen Z are happy and optimistic, but also claim to be stressed. Interestingly they don’t see stress impacting happiness! This may mean that better hygiene factors in the workplace will yield greater productivity. They’re driven by convenience, in the brands they care about, social media habits, and attitudes towards personalisation – as customers and employees. Think about making that Employee Brand Proposition seem more individual.

Note also, they’re more willing to exchange personal data and communicate with a brand if it means getting a better, more seamless, online experience in exchange. Finally, Gen Z claims more affinity with their brands than any other generation. When they feel connected with a brand, they personally identify with it. That’s an opportunity for Marketers to build greater brand loyalty.


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