From SOCAP21: How Gen Z Will Raise Business Expectations and Reshape the Workplace
The teens and 20-somethings that make up Gen Z are coming of age and finding their voice amid unprecedented political, social, and economic change. As this generation, born from 1997 to 2007, becomes a driving force of ever-accelerating change, its members also are redefining cultural norms and questioning long-held assumptions.
This SOCAP21 session, Connecting with Gen Z: Society’s Change Agents, takes a look at research about the diverse people who make up Gen Z, how these digital natives are setting new expectations for education and the workplace, and what businesses can do to prepare to meet their expectations now and in the future. This session brings together Alison Medina, Consumer and Generational Strategist at EY, and Sarah Rapp, Senior Manager, Alumni & Marketing Campaigns, JA Worldwide, one of the world’s largest youth-serving organizations, to share highlights from their collaborative survey.
Medina said Gen Z includes more than 46 million Americans, or about 14% of the U.S. population, and is the most diverse generation yet. “They are hard to generalize; they reject labels,” she said. “What they do and how they think is going to dramatically reshape our institutions as we know them.”
While members of Gen Z are more likely to be financially cautious — opting to save rather than spend — they are technologically savvy and expect quick access to information, services, and products. “Businesses must embrace Gen Z’s need for ease, simplicity, and most importantly, speed,” Medina said. “Gen Z is the generation that stops going to bank tellers and putting their paychecks in and instead will be doing everything on a mobile app. … They want to know: How are you going to make my life easier?”
In the workplace, Gen Z is naturally inclined to expect flexibility and seek a collaborative, purpose-driven job. “If they find themselves in the path of companies that do not align with their values … Gen Z will demand change from their employers,” she said. “They won’t just walk away, they will demand more. … Companies will be held accountable.”
As both an alumnus of and employee at JA Worldwide, Rapp sees more members of Gen Z embrace the opportunities of entrepreneurship. Its programs — available in more than 100 countries, with more than 10 million annual participants — give students the chance to brainstorm their own startup and learn with hands-on tasks such as completing finance sheets and creating marketing plans.
The Gen Z survey with EY involved JA Worldwide alumni and uncovered that many of them are hopeful about finding meaningful work and addressing global challenges within the next decade. “They’re very realistic — it’s not going to be easy,” Rapp said. “But they see if we work hard and push through the next 10 years, everything is going to be in a much better state.”
In addition to investing their time for positive impact, many of them already are looking to invest their money for social and environmental good. “This is where financial literacy is so important to teach them great ways on how to invest the money and build a sustainable world,” Rapp said.
Because Gen Z sees change as exciting rather than anxiety-driving, its members are more likely to explore different career options — and actually expect that to be a necessity. “With other generations, there was always this sense of security. … You get this job, it’s safe, and you’re going to stay there,” Rapp said.. “Obviously this is not how the world works anymore. … There is no secure job out there. This whole thing of shifting jobs is not a challenge; thinking of it as an inspiration to learn, advance, go where people are needed, and acquire new skills.”
Watch Connecting with Gen Z: Society’s Change Agents
Sarah Rapp, Senior Manager, Alumni & Marketing Campaigns, JA Worldwide
Alison Medina, Consumer and Generational Strategist, EY