Born between 1995 and 2012, the Generation Z (shortened to Gen-Z) is the generation succeeding the Millennials (Generation Y, you basically).
Because I’m born in 95, I’m among this new digital generation. Large companies like Deloitte, Goldman Sachs, McKinsey did expensive studies to understand what’s happening in our brains.
- This article is not a million dollars study.
- It’s not written by a 55 years old man trying to analyze us.
This article is written by a Gen-Z who would like to give you another perspective on the generation coming to your office.
A generation on the rise
This first Gen-Z will be 25 years old this year. My demographic cohort represents a small part of the western population. You used to know Millennials and Baby Boomers.
Median age by country in years in 2017 (Source: U.N.).
Right now, we are non-existent in the western countries.
US Labor Force by generation (source : Deloitte)
In 2020, we must represent less than 10% of your workforce. So, our impact is still minimal. In 2050, 40% of the Europeans will be over 60 years old. It will be then our golden age with Gen-Z as politicians, managers and scientists etc. Meanwhile, let’s hope you won’t let us a planet on fire.
Africa, Southeast Asia, the Middle East have plenty of Gen-Z. It might explain their quick economic growth. This new generation arrives with few needs, a lot of energy and demanded skills. One of them is Digital Literacy.
Are the Gen-Z digitally literate?
This question has been stuck in my head for some years now. It has begun at the university when my peers defined me as a geek because I could use a VPN, Torrent or typed fast. For me, it was the basics…
One thing is obvious: we have been using our smartphones and computers from an early age. At 10, I played World of Warcraft online without any help. Does it mean that we are all good with computers?
In 2018, the International Computer and Information Literacy Study (ICILS) surveyed 42 000 Gen-Z in 14 different countries. They found,
- 2% only are good with computer and information devices.
- 19% could work with a computer just to gather information and manage their work.
McKinsey went to the other way and confirmed the Gen-Z are digital-savvy.
So, is the Gen-Z widely good with IT and mobile technologies? I doubt about our digital capacities. A lot of people are passive in front of their tools. It’s not because you used to consume a product than you are good at it.
Let’s me explain it.
- Millennials, Baby Boomers used to watch a lot of TV (in the US, 4 hours a day), meanwhile only a few have strong screen skills.
- YouTube, you can watch 2 hours of videos a day, and never create any content.
- Instagram, Facebook, you can spend 2 hours a day, and never post or understand deeply social media mechanics.
Social media and digital tools are integrated into Gen-Z daily lives. It’s a way to stay connected with our peers. We have developed strong online relationships with our friends and family. This is true for the majority of Gen-Z. Meanwhile in western countries, most in-demand tech skills don’t cope with the offer. Even if all of those can be learn for free online…
Access to knowledge unlimited – New media to learn and entertain
In a library in Manizales (Colombia), I was amused to see many young people. Our libraries in Belgium are often empty except during exams periods.
I checked what they were doing. They were all on a screen. This public library was not a place to read, but a place to use free WIFI and play videos games.
It seems that the Gen-Z prefers to watch manga than to read Hoffman’s contes.
For a lot of people (especially elders), it’s a bad sign. “You don’t read books, you will become stupid“. Personally, I learn better a subject with different documentaries than with a book. It combines my visual and auditive memory.
For McKinsey, 65% of Gen-Zers prefer to absorb knowledge from online channels than from traditional institutions (source). Our educational system is far behind.
Meanwhile, the number of robots increase, and the global unemployment rate has never been so low. It fell to 5,2% the lowest in 40 years according to the Financial Times. So no, robots haven’t stolen our jobs yet. The development of AI allows us to get more fulfilling and high-skilled jobs. In this trend, we need to rethink deeply our lifelong education.
Gen-Zers must develop soft skills that machine have not mastered yet (creativity, communication, management, teamwork, etc.). Moreover, they will have to fulfil short of hard technical skills.
Future of Jobs Survey 2018 – World Economic Forum (source)
The demand for high-tech, innovative skills will rise. On the other hand, if 60% of our current jobs disappear, low-skills, low-pay workers will face serious problems.
If our educational system can’t change quickly, it’s our duty to learn by ourselves. Today knowledge is available,
- For free,
- All around the world.
What does it mean? It means that an architect in Belgium won’t be especially better than architect in Bangladesh. Today even high-skills jobs can be outsourced worldwide.
Classes from Harvard are available for free (for those you can search). Thanks to Coursera, Stanford went from 40 graduated students on Machine Learning to 10 000 a year. Half of them are less than 18 years old, 80% come from developing countries (source Oussama Ammar).
The search for truth
Transparency is important for my generation. We got disappointed by large firms and politics. Greta is one example of this disgust. I don’t think 80% of the Gen Z are green, bobo and open-citizen, but many care about their ethics. There was a time it was cool to work at BlackRock, Monsanto or Rothschild. Nowadays young employees need to hide it from their peers. Our ethics influence even our purchasing decisions.
We don’t define yourself in one simple way. Personally, among other things, I’m World-citizen, European, Belgian, French, Christian, Atheist, Agnostic, Buddhist, Humanist, Socialist, Liberal, Geek, Hacker, Environmentalist, Frugalist, Minimalist, Nomad. As McKinsey confirmed my generation has an undefined ID. We see the world from different glasses. We understand different truths and try to stay realistic (source).
Despite our multiple identities, two studies, which examined 20 000 Gen-Z worldwide, found out disappointing results…
- Open borders won’t come with our generation .
We are less religious, but not especially less progressist .
1/3 of Gen-Zers are against abortion. In Brazil, half of the Gen-Z are against same-sex marriage.
Source : McKinsey
Because I come from a liberal western culture, those results shocked me. Religion has less and less power on my peers. We learn from Millennials (professionals in divorces).
A generation of entrepreneurs
The Family presentation at Solvay Business School
For Goldman Sachs, Gen-Zers are money-oriented and more entrepreneurial than the Millennials (analysis from Robert Boroujerdi and Christopher Wolf). Data confirmed it. According to BBC News, in the United Kingdom,
- In 2009, 491 Gen-Zers had official business.
- In 2019, this number jumped to 4 152.
Our parents didn’t take seriously young entrepreneurship. They thought that their kid created a car wash or a lemonade stand. How could they expect that this 13-year-old influencer contracted with large brands, that this lemonade juice is sold worldwide through dropshipping?
Before the Internet, entrepreneurship was risky and expensive. Which kid could generate debt? Nowadays the entry barriers are non-existent in many sectors. If we are money-oriented as Goldman Sachs pretends, then entrepreneurship is the best way to generate it.
A generation of active junkies
I believe my generation will face a lot of health problems.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is on the rise. More and more Gen-Zers struggle to focus and to control their impulses. In the US, 16% of Gen-Zers are diagnosed with ADHD (source : Health Index). It’s around 2,4 million teenagers, a rise of 30% in 8 years.
- Our parents were already addicted to their phones. This addiction has been transmitted. A Gen-Z without a connection is torture… Camps open in the US and South Korea for a digital detox. Nowadays it concerns mainly hard gamers, but I believe this trend will increase in the future…
- For the majority, we haven’t changed our food consumption and our relationship with sport. Diabetes and heart diseases are waiting for us.
- Scientifics can’t answer about technology impacts on our bodies (4G, screens, etc.) The results will appear when we’ll be 50 years old. It will be too late then.
A bright future for us?
Bikes tour in Brussels
In a world of uncertainties,
- No retirement for my generation
- Soon a deep financial crisis (10 times bigger than 2008)
- Third world war
- High jobs competition
- Widening gap between rich and poor
- Climate catastrophes
- Global pandemic
Only high-skilled Gen-Zers will be able to make enough wealth to adapt.
We arrive in your office and we might come with our culture. Be prepared to change the work environment.
- Flexible workplace. Your generation still needs to be in touch physically with your teams. A remote manager seems impossible and hazardous. I believe that the swift will change with Gen-Z. We are used to creating virtual relationships. I can be closer to a man in Australia than with my own family…
- Type of workforce. Today in Belgium, everyone prays to get a long-term contract. It’s proof of safety. In an unstable economic environment, I believe that we’ll face a world of freelancers/entrepreneurs instead of a world of employees/employers.
Pieces of advice for my Gen-Z peers
Stop to take everything for granted. No one is waiting for you. Be humble. Continue to learn and don’t play in the same game than older people.
We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein
According to a recent French study (source : Crédoc), Gen-Z care about environment but we still act as basic consumerists. Our habits aren’t that different from older generations… In 2019, I took 9 planes. In average, teens take 2 per year. Practice what you preach.
Then take this hard choice:
- Live for fun and enjoy as much as you can before the hard times
- Hard work now to create enough wealth to survive the +6° climate waves.
For a better world.
PS : The title ? It was a way to shock. A lot of people consider young people as degenerated. As you can expect, we are not that different from previous generations.
The photo as cover ? It was in China. I like it. Old people act like young gipsies 😌. Whatever our generation we are still human.