Generation Z: Digital Natives
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By: Kimberly Cassell
Because those belonging to Generation Z are so young – born between 1995 and 2012 – Cabarrus Magazine was concerned that many of its questions would not be answerable and made the decision not to interview this age group.
Also called Generation Edge, “Gen Zers have been born into the crisis period of terrorism, the global recession and climate change. They are predicted to spend their young adult years in a time of economic and social renewal. They are also living in an era of changing household structures, and are the students of today, and university graduates, employees and consumers of tomorrow,” generationz.com says.
Diverse defines this generation. Deeply entrenched in visual technology more than any other generation – technology that provides seemingly limitless possibilities – they view life personally and professionally on a global scale.
“They are motivated to serve, particularly through volunteerism, but appear to be following Generation Y’s trend of political disengagement,” says teammates.org, adding, “Today, we live in a postponed generation. They (Generation Z) push the button on responsibility. While they are good at multi-tasking, they may find it harder to have old-fashioned, face-to-face conversations. With each new generation…1. Time becomes more valuable; 2. Expectations of convenience matter; 3. The demand of work meaning intensifies; 4. The hunger of options grows; 5. The sense of entitlement increases; 6. The need for speed and space goes up.”
“They are the most connected, educated and sophisticated generation ever. They are the up-agers, with influence beyond their years. They are the tweens, the teens, the youth and young adults of our global society,” generationz.com says. “They are the early adopters, the brand influencers, the social media drivers, the pop-culture leaders. They comprise nearly 2 billion people globally, and they don’t just represent the future, they’re creating it.”
Fashion – and marketing it to Generation Z – is constantly being re-evaluated as popular trends a few years ago go by the wayside and new fads hit the scene: colorful hair dyes and make-up, unisexuality, and the resurgence of the mohawk (or feauhawk) and continued popularity of piercings and tattoos.
Athleisure is a new term that sums up what a lot of Gen Zers prefer to wear. While enjoying what’s trendy, these young people want comfort and functionality – activewear that you don’t work out in.
A report released by NPD Group – a market research company – says that “activewear made up 16 percent of all apparel purchases from 2013 to 2014, totaling $33.7 billion.”
“In the 1990s, a super-thin, waif-like body was idealized; now the focus seems to be on thin and toned bodies,” Huffington Post adds.
While the sale of jeans decreased by some 6 percent in 2014, yoga pants and leggings flew off store shelves, and continue to. And brands like Abercrombie & Fitch, Aeropostale and American Eagle are scrambling to catch up or potentially lose an important piece of the retail pie. Even Gucci and Christian Dior have added sneakers to their collections.
Taprootfoundation.org predicts that in less than five years the American workplace will look very different as well. Currently, Gen Zers makes up less than 10 percent of the American workforce.
However, “By 2019, they will account for nearly 20 percent of all working adults in the States,” the site says, adding, “This knowledge-hungry group will require employers to provide them with professional engagement and satisfaction, and continuing education. In return, they bring to the table:
• Technological Prowess: Generation Z members are often called ‘digital natives,’ as they have never known a world without computers and cell phones. Generally, they are quick, efficient and adept at multi-tasking. This will be an asset in today’s fast-paced, technology-reliant workplace.
• Global Perspective: Having been raised during a time of global connectivity, they are more aware of current events, social causes and diverse perspectives. As companies become more global, members of Generation Z are likely to be more open to connecting with others who have a different background or perspective from their own.
• Flexibility: Generation Zers acknowledge and are generally open to change. Because Gen Zers thrive in environments of near-constant stimulation, they’re natural multi-taskers who can fluidly move from one assignment to the next. Companies are demanding work be completed quickly, high levels of innovation and the ability to collaborate with co-workers with a variety of work styles, and Generation Z should be up for the challenge.
Next, the challenges with Generation Z. Despite these positive attributes, which will likely bring heightened levels of innovation, tolerance and flexibility into the workplace, members of Generation Z are likely to have a dramatic gap in skills required to be successful in today’s work environment.
So where are the gaps?
• Risk-Taking: Due to growing up in a post-9/11 America and during an economic recession, Generation Z is characterized by being risk-adverse and having lowered expectations for themselves.
• Critical Thinking: Finally, while this new generation may be adept at gathering information from a multitude of online sources, there is evidence to show that it has come at a cost of their critical thinking skills. Rather than thinking through a problem and offering an original solution, individuals of Gen Z may be more comfortable searching for a solution online.
• Personal Skills: Potentially due to the reliance of technology, some personal or social skills may be lacking. As one researcher notes, ‘The basics of personal responsibility, problem solving, time management and interpersonal communication are often missing’ in Generation Z.”
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The interview process for this issue of Cabarrus Magazine clearly revealed that members of each generation cannot be pigeon-holed. While sets of characteristics might be determined by those who consider themselves experts, reality lies within each of us.
Upbringing definitely factors into one’s priorities – parental involvement, parents’ job stability and their goals for their children – as well as the state of the country at the time. But the lines between generations are blurred and, at the end of the day, there’s a sense of commonality.
Cabarrus Magazine would like to thank the four individuals who took the time to sit down and let us “pick their brains.” They’re all successes in their own right...no matter their birthdate.