Gen Z Invasion: 11 Traits Your Small Biz Must Know

Date: August 04, 2015

They’re not millennials. You might be surprised how the next generation will affect your business.

The Generation Z invasion has begun. And no, we’re not talking about a zombie apocalypse.

Gen Z, those born in the mid-’90s to the early aughts, is now entering the workplace. While they currently only comprise about 7 percent of the workforce, according to Inc., by 2019, it’s estimated that 30 million Gen Zers will be employed.

Here are the 11 key characteristics of this generation, and how they’ll affect your small business.

1. They’re the first digital natives.

Gen Z is the first generation to have Internet access from birth, “with ‘smart’ devices as their first playthings, and are truly born directly into being hyperconnected all the time,” said Dan Keldsen, co-author with Thomas Koulopoulos of The Gen Z Effect: The Six Forces Shaping the Future of Business, in an interview with American Express’ Open Forum.

2. Don’t you dare compare them to millennials.

On a professional level, Gen Z is hyperaware of the negative stereotypes that have plagued millennials, said Jeremy Finch, a strategist at Altitude, a design and innovation consultancy, in an article for Fast Company. As a result, they want to be known for their ability to work hard and persevere offline. They also prefer in-person communication.

3. They’re your customers right now.

Even if their parents are paying the bills, this 2-billion-strong generation wields enormous influence because it forms communities and uses social media as a personal megaphone, Keldsen said.

4. They’ve been overhyped as entrepreneurs.

Despite being labeled the entrepreneurial generation, with a desire to forsake the corporate grind for their own startups, Finch found that “while Gen Z likes the idea of working for themselves, the majority [of Gen Zers] are risk-averse, practical and pragmatic. Their supposed entrepreneurialism is actually more of a survival mechanism than an idealist reach for status or riches.”

5. In terms of behavior, follow their lead.

They’re the leading indicators of the behaviors that we are all embracing, and they adopt new technology at a faster pace than ever, Keldsen said.

6. Some rules were meant to be broken.

Gen Z kids have no issue with working around or “hacking” the system—finding better, faster and cheaper ways to solve problems, Keldsen said. The three hacks that will most shape the Gen Z landscape are crowdfunding, 3-D printing and changing attitudes about intellectual property and patents, according to Keldsen.

7. They’ve been overpraised and over-rewarded.

Gen Z has been raised by so-called “helicopter parents,” who are constantly hovering. “I can see them being very tough employees who will expect a gold star for everything. That’s what they’re used to—getting a prize for just turning up,” said Hugh Mackay, author of The Art of Belonging, in a Sydney Morning Herald article.

8. They’d like to create their own jobs.

This generation tends to be intelligent workers with valuable skills that often surpass those of adults. “Which means they could choose the job at your business…or the slightly cooler job that your marginally edgier competitors are offering,” according to Inc. “Make them feel valued and give them some stretching room to dabble in other positions. Let them put their many, many skills to use.”

9. Don’t expect them to stick around.

More than a quarter of Gen Zers (27 percent) believe that you should stay at your first job for one year or less, and 56 percent believe you should stay at your first job for two to three years, according to Generation Z vs. Millennials, a report by the staffing firm Adecco. This means offering a clear career path is all the more important.

10. A “cool” workplace and high salary aren’t as important as you’d think.

Turns out college kids are more interested in career growth (36 percent) than a friendly work environment (10 percent) or the highest salary (6 percent), Bob Crouch, CEO of Adecco Group North America, wrote in Fortune.

11. They multitask like crazy.

We’re all guilty of it to some degree, but Gen Z has known nothing else. They’ll create a document on their laptop, reopen it on their smartphone while on the bus and revisit it again at home while watching TV, Business 2 Community reported. “They shift from work and play, real and virtual in short intense spurts. Imagine how they will redefine the workplace with this type of workflow.”

Before you target Gen Z, learn how to attract millennial employees here

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