Generation Z on the rise

There’s been a lot written about how to deal with (pick one):

1. Millennials and how to motivate them.

2. Millennials and how to understand them.

3. Millennials and how to work with them.

Now comes something totally different: Generation Z. It makes sense, right? Baby boomers and Generations X, Y and Z. Well, the Wall Street Journal published a very interesting article on the up-and-coming Z generation. It appears the new crop of workers and potential workers has a very different approach to life – and work – from millennials. Let’s take a moment to roughly define the generations who are in the workforce.


According to the research, Gen Z was highly affected by the recession in 2008 and therefore is more conscious of money and what it can provide. An idea that has merit is that the Z’ers are more like the Depression-era workforce that went through the extreme hardships of the 1930s. They also felt the pinch of the housing market collapse and high unemployment rate of the period.

This generation values work. But that doesn’t mean they will work at anything. Companies are having a difficult time filling low-paying labor jobs, even better jobs like at Starbucks, which offers incentives and perks. The Generation Z crop wants more than the minimum wage. They believe their work has worth.

As far as college education, Gen Z is not willing to assume the student loans that have so burdened the generation before them. In a booming economy, they may not view college as a given, or even necessary. But in my classes at Indiana University, these students appear optimistic and interested in success. They don’t seem likely to live in their mother’s basement until they turn 26.

I’ve found these young people fascinating. Many of them don’t remember 9/11, but they do know about school shootings and the terrible opioid epidemic in our country. They have endured steady wars throughout their lives. They are well aware of our polarized political system.

Like generations before, this developing pod of workers will likely want a better life for themselves and their children. What form that might take is not yet clear. But it is clear they will live in an increasingly transparent world, driven by technology in a global marketplace. They should be prepared for it – they are even more digitally savvy than the millennials. Now that is really something.

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