5 fundamental characteristics of Generation Z

To reach the emerging generation, play to their strengths, preferences and interests. Here’s how to connect with this ascending cohort.

Gen Z traits

Just when the world was starting to understand what makes millennials tick, a new cohort of consumers, employees and colleagues is ready to take the stage.

There are now more than 60 million members of Generation Z in the U.S—many of whom have already entered the workforce. Many millions more will do so in the next few years. Is your workplace prepared to reach, engage and retain the new generation?

As a member of Generation Z, I can affirm that we are an incredibly diverse group that’s nearly impossible to pin down or paint with broad strokes. However, we do share certain traits, characteristics and sensibilities. Here are five to keep in mind:

We play it safe.
We are mostly a post-9/11 generation, but growing up in a world of high security and heightened awareness has made caution and alertness second nature.

Of course, we also face hacking, online scams and the 24/7 news cycle, which never fail to remind us about the many dangers that surround us all. From our relationship with technology to our buying habits, Gen Zers tend to play it safe.

Key takeaway: We value our security and are naturally skeptical. Show us your brand or company is deserving of our trust, and you’ll win our enduring loyalty.

We manage our money.
Growing up amid one of the worst financial crises in modern history has affected Gen Z profoundly. Many of us watched our parents struggle through the recession, and we learned the value of money at an early age. As a result, we tend to be fiscally responsible and mindful about money.

Gen Z is proving to be a frugal generation that scrimps and saves.

Key takeaway: We value and protect our cash, and we want to know that the brands or companies we invest in do, too. If your company spends frivolously, you might be turning off younger workers.  

We want to get personal.
Gen Z is nothing if not wary. We are skeptical of corporations—and people—and we can spot insincerity a mile away.

To reach Generation Z, you must be authentic and engaging and show genuine interest in what makes us tick. Communicating with honesty and empathy is what we demand.

Key takeaway: When it comes to work—or purchases—we value authenticity and transparency.

We are fluent in technology, and we think globally.
Most members of Gen Z have never been without smartphones, the internet or social media.

Technology is wired into our lives, and we are more connected than any previous generation. This hyper-connectivity gives us a global perspective that affects how we think, act and relate to others. We are more aware of other cultures and open to people of all backgrounds.

Key takeaway: We value diversity and inclusion, and we respect organizations that do the same.

We’re ready to work.
We are competitive, hard workers who are eager to earn money, but we believe passion and practicality can go together. Gen Zers want work that is fulfilling and profitable.

If you want to reach us, attract us and keep us around, offering flexibility’s not a bad idea. Regardless, we are ready to work, contribute, lead and manage.

Key takeaway: We value hard work, and we want to do something meaningful.

A version of this post first appeared on the Ketchum blog.


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