The kids going back to school will be your employees and customers very shortly—if they aren't already. Generation Z, defined as those born 1997 and beyond, is a diverse and cosmopolitan group of young people who may be "inexperienced" by traditional standards but appreciates unique opportunities to contribute.
What else do we know about them, and what can we do to better connect with Gen Z? It'll require some targeted, Generation Z marketing.
1. They are city dwellers who stay put.
Not only is Generation Z more ethnically and racially diverse than prior generations, but members tend to reside in heterogeneous environments as well.
According to a late 2018 study by Pew Social Trends, Gen Z-ers overwhelmingly reside in metropolitan areas as opposed to rural ones. " Only 13 percent of post-Millennials are in rural areas, compared with 18 percent of Millennials in 2002," the report said. "By comparison, 23 percent of Gen Xers lived in rural areas when they were ages 6 to 21, as did 36 percent of early Boomers."
They are less likely, however, to move. Only about 11 percent of Gen Z-ers lived somewhere else a year earlier, compared with 17 percent of Millennials and 20 percent of Gen X-ers and Boomers at the same ages.
2. They lack concrete work experience.
Per the Pew report, Gen Z-ers are entering adulthood with less experience in the labor market than prior generations. Only one-in-five 15- to 17-year-olds in 2018 (19 percent) worked at all during the prior calendar year, compared with 30 percent of Millennials and 48 percent of Boomers at the same ages. A little more than half of Gen Z-ers worked during the prior calendar year.
I often say that one can learn transferable workplace skills like sales, marketing, client relations and finance in any job—even in retail or fast food. The trouble is, fewer Gen Z-ers are taking these positions as teens, and therefore enter the professional world—I would argue—less prepared to succeed.
As a workforce futurist, I believe Gen Z-ers are less gainfully employed because they are spending more time in school and prefer to balance their time doing meaningful activities. Therefore, strategizing how to reach Gen Z can include designing part-time or internship opportunities that expose them to the business and introduce essential skills.
3. Entry-level hires depend heavily on their employers.
A 2019 study by the Workforce Institute at Kronos echoed Pew's findings that many Gen Z-ers feel they don't possess critical workplace skills including negotiating (cited by 26 percent of the survey's 3,4000 respondents), speaking confidently in front of a group (cited by 24 percent) and resolving work conflicts (23 percent). (The study defined "Gen Z as people who are currently 16-25 years old.")
...Your Gen Z consumer strategy should incorporate a variety of touch points that encourage in-person and online interaction and focus on your unique brand proposition and story.
At the same time, though, they want to move up quickly and for their managers to help them do it. More than a third of the Workforce Institute's Gen Z-ers judge their personal success by how quickly they advance at work, and starting on day one, 25 percent of Gen Z-ers expect frequent check-ins and feedback from their managers.
So, if you want to know how to reach Gen Z, talk to your entry-level hires often, promote collaboration with others and take action on matters related to their motivations and aspirations.
4. Generation Z is optimistic, but anxious.
Per the global Workforce Institute research, more than half of Generation Z employees are hopeful about the future. Despite this encouraging finding, Gen Z-ers feel emotional barriers stand between them and work achievement. Over a third of Gen Z-ers feel anxiety is holding them back; they also perceive their lack of motivation (20 percent) and low self-esteem (17 percent) as a detriment to professional growth.
In the years I've spent studying young professionals, I've never seen mental health concerns quite this significant. If you as an organization want to master how to reach Gen Z, providing the right support is a terrific place to start. Be attuned to changing patterns and signs of withdrawal; ask Gen Z-ers how they're doing, show you care about them on a personal level (especially if they are remote) and offer access to resources like such as hotlines and counselors.
5. Omnichannel marketing is the key to Gen Z consumers.
Many businesses are understandably targeting Gen Z-ers as customers, too. They want brand experiences across digital and physical channels, and social media is a top influence channel. They also appreciate video that showcases products and services they're interested in.
Given these findings, your Gen Z consumer strategy should incorporate a variety of touch points that encourage in-person and online interaction and focus on your unique brand proposition and story. Bringing Gen Z employees and customers together to drive your brand's future can be a win all around!
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