Millennials Who? Why You Need to Get to Know Generation Z

Millennials Who? Why You Need to Get to Know Generation Z

By: Jennifer Williamson
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Millennials Who? Why You Need to Get to Know the Next Disruptive Force-Gen Z! @SodexoUSA #GenZ

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Jennifer Williamson, Senior Vice President, Corporate Communications, Sodexo North America

Wednesday, January 20, 2016 - 9:30am


The days of appealing to Millennials is rapidly becoming a thing of the past.  With approximately 60 million, native-born Americans, Generation Z (Gen Z) is destined to be the next disruptive force in business. Companies have already started targeting Gen Z.  In 2015 Pew Research Center calculated the Millennial generation at 75.3 million, however due to the unclear lines of division of birth year between Millennial’s and Gen Zers, there is a slight overlap in population causing Millennials to appear larger than reality. So who exactly falls into the Gen Z category?  Opinions differ, but most studies agree that Gen Zer’s were born after 1995.  To better understand the impact Gen Z will have on future business, we must first learn what has shaped their values, behaviors and ideals.

Gen Z grew up in a nation post 9/11; they never knew a world not at war.  Coming of age during a recession has caused this generation to be frugal.  Through seeing the first African American president and the legalization of marriage equality, this group is also considered the most open minded and inclusive generation yet.  The change in family culture (i.e. higher divorce rates and more single parent homes) has led Gen Z to be self-directed and independent.  And of course, probably the most visible behavior is their reliance on technology.  Generation Z, also known as true “digital natives,” is the first generation to grow up with technology readily at their fingertips.

In general, Gen Z holds the following characteristics:

  • Independent & Self-Reliant
  • Frugality
  • Short Attention Span (about 8 seconds)
  • Concern for the greater good
  • Less entitled than the former Millennial Generation
  • Entrepreneurial Spirit

Gen Zer’s also:

  • Crave constant and immediate feedback
  • Need validation and acceptance
  • Expect to hold the “dream job”

With these traits and behaviors in mind, we can begin to see how much Gen Z will influence the future direction of business and the economy. Through Gen Z’s need for validation, they seek uniqueness in their products, which will cause a decrease in brand loyalty.  No longer are the “big” companies going to win.  With sites like Pinterest, Etsy, etc., Gen Z seeks quality products that differ from the mainstream.  Gen Z is also most content searching for these products from the comfort of their home rather than going to the mall or shopping at traditional brick and mortar stores. Gen Z likes options and is willing to search for the best prices.

Gen Z’s concern for the greater good will lead them to shift towards companies that practice Corporate Responsibility.  This will impact not only their spending habits, but also their employment preferences.  Gen Z wants to impact society; they want to see that they can make a difference.  This concern for the greater good also comes into play with lifestyle choices.  Gen Z cares more about health and well-being of not only themselves, but also the larger society more so than previous generations.  This leads them to live more active lifestyles, eat more organic and whole food choices, and share their health goals and accomplishments on social media.

These unique characteristics set Gen Z apart from earlier generations.  From their differing perspectives on work to their natural technological prowess, Gen Z is quickly replacing Millennials as the new, next hot thing to take the country by storm.  Employers looking to engage with Gen Z need to consider these characteristics to best cater to the rising talent.  With nearly 20% of the population and growing Gen Z represents the future of business performance.


Jennifer Williamson is Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications for Sodexo North America and a strong advocate for the new performance frontier: Quality of Life Ms. Williamson believes that multigenerational workforce communication is a key to driving better individual and organizational performance.