Saturday, November 18, 2017

There's a Generation Z -- Who Knew?

     We all know about the Greatest Generation and the Silent Generation and the Baby Boom Generation. And then there's Generation X, the people who followed on the heels of the baby boomers.

     And of course we've all heard about the millennials -- ad nauseum -- who are also known as Generation Y. By and large, these are the children of the baby boomers, born in the 1980s and 1990s. This cohort is some 80 million strong, and believe it or not, they now outnumber the baby boomers.

     And we thought we were the biggest kids on the block!

     Just f.y.i., there were some 76 million births in the United States from 1946 to 1964, the baby boom era. Of those original 76 million, about 13 million have died. But there are some 11 million immigrants who are now in their 50s and 60s. So if you count these "replacements" there are still some 74 million people who make up baby boomers in the U. S.

     But now I've come to find out there's a new generation. Generation Z. Jeez, doesn't that make you feel old?!?

     Generation Z consists of people born in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The oldest Generation Zers are beginning to graduate from college. And according to some reports, they have their own distinct view of the world.

     Gen Z is the first generation that grew up with the Internet and smartphones. These kids only know about things like landlines and AOL through history books and movies. They also grew up in a time of economic and political uncertainty -- think recession of 2002 and the bigger one in 2008-9 -- and have watched their millennial predecessors struggle to find jobs and become financially independent. Gen Zers are well-versed in technology. The brass ring in terms of jobs hangs in Silicon Valley, or other technology hubs, or else in the technology divisions of major companies.

     They grew up with social media, and so they want to work in collaborative teams and learn from their peers. They are less likely than millennials to want to be entrepreneurs. They would rather work for a big company that offers benefits and flexible work hours.

     Many of Gen Zers studied abroad in college and so they are interested in traveling for work and even exploring opportunities to work in another country. They are also used to real-time responses, and so are pushing for more frequent feedback at work. The annual performance appraisal is giving way to regular, ongoing feedback programs.

      On the other side of the equation, a survey of corporate managers found they are worried that Generation Zers will be hard to communicate with and hard to train. Older managers fear that Gen Zers feel entitled, and lack a purposeful work ethic. And they believe this younger generation may have difficulty making personal connections and working with others .

     But I remember when we baby boomers were entering the workforce, back in the 1970s. People thought we were lazy. They thought we only liked to sit around with our friends and get high. They thought we had it easy. We'd never experiencing the Depression, or a World War, and we were supposedly handed everything on a silver platter by our post-war parents. We felt entitled to a good job and respect from our bosses, simply because we were young and thought we were so wonderful.

     So . . . have things changed all that much? Well, one thing has changed. It turns out that the millennials and Generation Z are not really official generations, after all. They are merely convenient constructs developed by demographers and marketers. In fact, the baby boomers are the only demographically significant "generation" officially recognized by the U. S. Census Bureau. The baby boomers changed the world, like no other generation.

     Besides, there's another issue. What comes after Z? They've run out of letters!

     B and I had a grandchild born earlier this year. What are they going to call him and his friends? How will they get categorized? Right now he's just a baby, no different from my kids when they were babies, probably not much different from us when we were babies. But what is he going to be like -- what's the world going to be like -- in 20 or 25 years when he enters the workforce?


Red said...

Hey, I'm disappointed! You left out the good pre war people!!!For one thing there aren't many of us left. One thing I can say that as adults we lived through the best of times. Jobs were a dime a dozen. We just had to worry about those poor baby boomers. Interesting post.

Trudi said...

>What comes after Z? α Alpha... the first letter of the Greek alphabet.

Barbara said...

Interesting. The Grand Son fits right in with your description including the need for recognition. I thought it was just him but if you think that his life has always been about instant everything - then feedback is more natural than I thought.

Jono said...

I was also wondering how they will categorize the next generation. All I remember is that we are boomers and the rest are some letter at the end of the alphabet. We say the same things about the kids as our parents generation said about us. Things don't seem to change all that much.

Anonymous said...

Well, I am one of the first Baby Boomers. I was born in early 1946.

retirementreflections said...

Interesting stuff, Tom! Thank you for sharing this.

Stephen Hayes said...

Technology is changing so quickly it's hard to image what the world will be like when your grandchild is looking for work. Personally, I'm not looking forward to these changes.

DJan said...

I'm almost as old as Red, so I can relate to feeling a little ancient with all these generations and their descriptions. I won't be around to see the world when your little grandchild graduates from college. I like the idea of Alpha for the new generation. A little like starting over again. :-)

Tom Sightings said...

Yeah, I too like the idea of starting over ... and with Alpha. Why not?

Lynn ~ Encore Voyage said...

Thanks for keeping it in perspective. We tend to forget that many thought we boomers had it easy...They thought we were lazy hippies, who would never amount to much. A good reminder when I'm having those same feelings about today's millennials! ~ Lynn

Rebecca Olkowski said...

With each new generation, we slip further and further down the line. I'm concerned about the example the Z's are getting right now from what's happening in the world. Hopefully, they'll change all that.