Move over millennials, the new kids on the block have arrived.
Born between 1997 and 2012, the Gen Z is poised to cast its clout. The oldest of their generation turned 22 this year and are ready to enter the workforce. Marketers are setting their eyes on this generation that will soon build their purchasing power and ripen to become the next force to be reckoned with.
“It’s time to take this generation seriously,” said Joaquin Cook, president and CEO of the Bank of Guam.
To start with, Gen Z is the first truly wired generation, with no memory of the analogue world. Technology is such a natural component of their growing years. Millennials came of age during the internet maturation. GenXers grew up at the doorstep of computer revolution, while Baby Boomers were the welcomers of television expansion.
Cook noted that 96 percent of the GenZers own a smartphone, using headphones at an average of four hours a day. “Gen Z has been described as ‘the loneliest generation,’ yet they are highly connected and use technology and a myriad of platforms to enhance their experiences beyond the reach of their everyday lives,” Cook said at the Bank of Guam’s forum titled “Purpose Beyond Profit” held Nov. 22 at Dusit Thani Resort.
“With technology at their fingertips 24/7, they are well-informed, their world is larger and their voices are louder.”
A series of reports from the Pew Research Center has found that Gen Z is on track to be the best educated in U.S. history. They have higher high school graduation rates and lower dropout rates than those who came before them, and they are more likely to be in college. In 2017, 59 percent of 18- to 20-year-olds were in college, compared with 53 percent of Millennials and 44 percent of GenXers at similar ages.
Studies also indicate that GenZers’ developing views on a host of social, political and environmental issues are beginning to set them apart from the generations before them.
Joaquin Cook, president and CEO of Bank of Guam, speaksBank of Guam’s forum titled “Purpose Beyond Profit” held Nov. 22 at Dusit Thani Resort. Photo by Mar-Vic Cagurangan
“If you’re ready to listen, they’ve got something to say,” Cook said. “They are also showing early indications toward civic engagement.”
Unlike the older generations, Cook said, GenZers are inspired, purpose-oriented and optimistic. “GenZers are tired of how negative and divided our country has become. They believe positivity is the go-forward strategy and are near-unanimous in their belief we need to come together to make progress.”
Budding leaders have emerged from this generation, including gun control activist Emma Gonzales, climate change warrior Greta Thunberg and her counterpart in the Pacific islands region, Selina Leem. “They are undaunted — with more than three-quarters (76 percent) saying they believe in five years’ time we will have made progress on important issues,” Cook said.
From the business perspective, Cook said the youngest generation’s fresh attitude can be the catalyst for corporate reform. “They are looking to purpose-driven companies to be partners in that progress and stand ready to take action,” he said. “This is a generation that feels empowered to change the world for the better.”
Cook cited statistics indicating that Gen Z is ready to flip the script on current national dialogue and start fresh: 88 percent feel their generation has the power to transform the world for the better, and 83 percent) feel they can personally make a difference on issues important to them; 88 say they care about social and environmental issues.
“They see these problems as urgent and think companies have a powerful role to play in addressing their concerns. In fact, the majority (90%) believe companies should take action on these issues,” Cook said. “More than nine-in-10 (93 percent) say if a company makes a commitment, it should have the appropriate programs and policies in place to back up that commitment. And they won’t take companies on their word alone. Three-quarters (75 percent) will do research to see if a company is walking the talk when it takes a stand on an issue.”
At the shopping aisle and workplace, corporate scruples matter to GenZers’ decision-making. “GenZers see a company’s purpose as a core consideration in where to work (83 percent), even more so than what to buy,” Cook said.
GenZers are very specific about what they are looking for. Is the company is helping or hurting society or the environment? Is the company taking an online action and protest to help causes they care about? “More than nine-in-10 (93 percent) say if a company makes a commitment, it should have the appropriate programs and policies in place to back up that commitment,” Cook said.
And GenZers can’t be fooled. “They won’t take companies on their word alone. Three-quarters (75 percent) will do research to see if a company is walking the talk when it takes a stand on an issue,” Cook said.
While recognizing the corporate sector’s role in solving critical issues, GenZers don’t just sit on the fence. “This generation is ready to roll up their sleeves and participate in progress,” Cook said. “For companies looking to win the ever-increasing war for talent, this is an important signal.”