Trailing the Millennial generation is a tribe of kids that are ‘on fleek,’ and the ‘bees knees.’ The word on the streets is that this generation is attempting to bring back the term ‘rad’. Why, you ask? Well, it’s just a ‘rad’ word. Over the past few years I have developed some GenZ slang, but I am not sure I am considered ‘tight’ enough to use it in my day-to-day life.
I’m really excited to have these students invading our lives because they bring a lively spirit, a heart for others, and a healthy understanding of change. They are a tribe which is identified by the experiences they have had, and sadly, not the qualities they have developed because of these experiences. The social media influence of this generation may be its most identifiable trait.
GenZ grew up in the age of social media, and had the great opportunity to learn from the devastating use of social media that their Millennial friends and older siblings experienced. While Millennials had social media thrown at them in a way that they could only experiment and fail, GenZ is showing greater responsibility.
Have you ever wondered why anonymous social media outlets are currently so popular with this generation? It may be due to the fact that GenZ’s parents have been posting about them on social media for years, and they will value privacy more than prior generations.
Marketing research has identified social media applications as the primary marketing method for this generation. As you would assume, this new generation of kids is positioned to be a significant market for companies. In fact, marketing experts are projecting this generation to bring in billions of dollars to our economy.
Through your personal social media browsing I’m certain you have come across enough articles looking down on our emerging generation. So, allow me to guide you through some of the positive attributes of this generation. Having a balanced perspective of who they are will help us guide them into the contribution narrative.
1. This generation values authenticity.
This generation has experienced a lot in their short lifetimes. In fact, many call Generation Z the ‘Homeland Generation’ due to the nature of terrorism they have experienced. This generation has also experienced major downturn in the economy, war, heightened racial tensions, major social issues, and a significant amount of pluralistic faith experiences.
“These events have resulted in a generation that potentially values fiscal responsibility, tolerance of others, education, employment flexibility, and networking abilities” (p. 105).
Typically, difficult times in our culture brings people together, and this seems to be true for GenZ. My hope with this emerging generation is that we will see less issues of bullying and more positive social experiences among them. Due to the world they have been brought up in, they should place a strong emphasis on issues of social justice and creating a better world.
2. GenZ is highly likely to be influenced by their peer group.
This has been true for many generations, but this one may be a bit different. As an over-generalization, this generation is experiencing a much different family system than previous generations.
“Generation Z is so far the most fragmented and varied generation. It is defined by the internet, globalization and the multiculturalism associated with this, terrorism, the financial crisis, the breakdown of the family, and essentially a complete loss of security” (p. 86).
-Kantorová, Jonášová, Panuš, & Lipka (2017)
Grandparents raising grandkids is on the rise, the percentage of divorced families continues to increase, the foster and adoption system is seeing increases within their programs, and the list of family differences could continue. The point is that this generation is likely going to have a difficult time trusting the adults in their lives.
“There is an interesting fact concerning the area of intergenerational influence. For Generation Z, the older generation does not have the same influence on decision making as they had in previous generations. For the most part, this generation needs to try everything out for themselves” (p. 93).
-Kantorová, Jonášová, Panuš, & Lipka (2017)
Understanding this from a leadership perspective is important because leaders will need to identify influencers in their communities. Who are the kids that people look up to? Who are the kids people listen to and follow? Let’s identify the leaders, bring these influencers in and teach them how to influence their peers in healthy ways.
3. They are motivated in very specific ways.
Knowing how to motivate people is a key to all leadership. If we want to lead this emerging generation to become contributors, how do we motivate them?
“Gen Zers are strongly motivated by relationships: 75 percent don’t want to let others down, and 75 percent want to make a difference for someone. They are also motivated by passion, with 75 percent saying they would advocate for something they believe in. And they are motivated by rewards: 74 percent are motivated by an opportunity for advancement, and 74 percent are motivated by the possibility of receiving credit” (p. 4).
-Hope, J. (2016)
So, strategies meant to cultivate and form this emerging generation must be centered around relationships, passions, advocacy, rewards/credit, and opportunity for advancement. I’m currently working with a group of leaders attempting to address each of these motivational tactics as we develop a plan for spiritual formation on our campus. The early results are promising, and I’m excited to share the results with you when they are ready.
Generation Z has significant traits that can be viewed as negative, but when viewed properly, they are also strengths that can better our society when harnessed correctly. Having a positive outlook on the next generation allows us to empower them, and knowing this enables us to cultivate these positive attributes in ways that are formative. Let’s kick off the shackles of the past and engage GenZ like never before as we cultivate contributors for the future.
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