Now Cometh Gen Z

So we have been hearing about Millennials for quite a while now, and for those like myself who are Boomers, sitting two or three generations apart from this crowd, it has been an eye opener in many ways.  On one hand, to us, Millennials as a group are impressive people, but then on the other hand we often just have to shake our heads in disbelief.  We made it through the “assimilation” of Gen X, and then had to take Gen Y (Millennials) by the hand.  I suppose that is the responsibility elders shoulder across all societies, but given that our society is shaped by a myriad of constantly changing factors as opposed to more tribal social groups where there is slower change, more complications can arise.

And now cometh Gen Z.  These “guys” are only now entering the workforce of America, and will be similar in many values to their cohorts around the globe.  In fact, it is reported that Gen Z often feels they have more in common with counterparts on the other side of the sea or “pond”, than they do their own parents!

Here are a few values researchers have distilled about our “new friends”:

  • Independence is valued; “do it yourself” (perhaps “by yourself”) is an attitude.  They are less collaborative and less team-minded than their immediate predecessors.
  • They are digital natives and live a digital world: they are fearless when it comes to any software or coding task.
  • Most see themselves as citizens of the world, as opposed to viewing the world from their locale.
  • Many will not matriculate to conventional college programs, opting (or forced by circumstances) to get educated via “many avenues”, which could be on-line courses, “DIY” learning, perhaps two-year programs would be in the mix also:  a grab your education as best you can, where you can, and use your brain to make this knowledge work practically toward your interests.
  • Entrepreneurial versus being stewards of status quo.
  • Privacy over public sharing of information:  these “guys” are “Snapchatters”, who are cool with their information being fleetingly exposed, leaving them free to say whatever they want to at any moment.
  • They also like to communicate in person, “face time”, rather than by messages or emails when its really important, or they just are “hanging out.”
  • Lastly, they are realistic, pragmatic, and can be hard working:  they know in their hearts that their future world depends on them, and their own efforts.  These will be citizens who bootstrap their livelihoods, create and sustain, through their own mind-power and effort.

Anyone of my generation no doubt has had direct experience with folks from all our progeny generations, and continues to react with a combination of amusement, disbelief, amazement and chagrin – to name just a few – to these intergenerational dimensions.  I personally have godchildren who span Gen Y to now Z, and I can certainly detect differences even across a mere ten years, and have had my share of communication challenges and funny “stuff” in relating to and helping them.

So it should be an interesting ride to see how our new young friends in the adult world impact our work places and society at large over the next decade and beyond.  I hope I can live long enough to be a witness, for I do believe this generation represents some of the best values of this nation, and probably for other nations, and will bring humanity closer together than ever before to address global challenges, such as climate change.

Welcome aboard, Gen Z!

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