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What are the core characteristics of Gen Z?

15th June 2021

Author: Elodie Gentina (IESEG School of Management, France)

Over the past few years, a new generation slowly has moved into focus: Generation Z, including individuals born from the mid-1990s to the late 2000s.

Members of Gen Z are true digital natives: they have grown up in a digital world, saturated by technology and are exposed every day to social networks and to mobile systems.

A generation of digital natives

This generation of digital natives has grown up in a digital, technology-saturated world.

Members of Generation Z do not need to familiarise themselves with technology by comparing it to something else. On the contrary, many adolescents consider smartphones as integral parts of their lives and can hardly imagine living without them; they spend on average more than 3 hours per day on their smartphone.

A worried generation

The younger generation has grown up with the War on Terror, the spread of violent jihadism and terrorism. The Coronavirus pandemic might be a watershed moment in the lives of Generation Z. According to a survey of US teenagers from Common Sense Media taken in March–April 2020, 63% are worried about the effect that COVID-19 has on their family’s ability to make a living or earn money and 42% feel 'more lonely than usual'. They have grown up in a world that hasn’t always made them feel secure. Thus, they are pessimistic about the future – and overall seem unhappy with the state of the world that they have inherited.

At the same time, the Coronavirus pandemic is likely to change Generation Z's perspective, because it has caused them to re-think how they spend their money and what their financial goals are. Generation Z seeks to collaborate with others through consumption, such as exchanging and sharing practices.

A creative generation

Members of Generation Z apply their innate talent with new technologies and social media to launch new businesses and participate in the creation of new products that appeal to their peers and others. They are "agents of change" and exhibit a strongly innovative, and, independent spirit. 40% of Generation Z claim that they plan to invent something that will change the world. They place a lot of emphasis on being resourceful and entrepreneurial: 72% of high school students want to start their own business. Not only is Generation Z a group of consumers, but they are also the next generation of business owners.

A forward-looking generation

Contrary to the myth of a self-absorbed generation, young people across the globe have a strong commitment to their world: 67% say that making a wider contribution to society (beyond looking after oneself and one’s family and friends). They feel the weight of environmental issues, with 66% saying that climate change makes them fearful for the future. Generation Z constitutes a large citizen group, with the potential to exert a powerful collective drive towards environmental protections in society. They believe that their own actions are significant for environmental protections, such as reducing car travel, decreasing hot water use, and sorting household waste.

Although Generation Z, born into new technology, addresses new technology as an "extension of themselves", they have also learned to value their privacy and limit their usage of technology to an appropriate manner. This generation is also constantly immersed in real-life (IRL) social world and need face to face relationships.

 

Elodie Gentina is an Associate Professor of Marketing at IESEG School of Management in France. Her principal research interests lie in Generation Z and consumer behaviour/ management.  She is the author of two books on Generation Z (Dunod), and has published many articles on Generation Z in Journal of Business Research, Journal of Business Ethics, Information and Management, Computers and Education. She regularly presents papers at international conferences, including European, US and Asia-Pacific. She is also the CEO E&G Consulting Group, specialising in Generation Z (Management). She acts as a consultant to numerous companies on management, Human Resource issues.

 

Read The New Generation Z in Asia: Dynamics, Differences, Digitalization, by Elodie Gentina (IESEG School of Management, France) & Emma Parry (Cranfield School of Management, UK)