Glossary of Human Resources Management and Employee Benefit Terms
Generation Z, also called Gen Z, is the generational cohort following millennials, born between the late 1990s and early 2010s. Research indicates that Generation Z is the largest generation in American history and constitutes 27 percent of the country’s population. By 2026, Gen Z will make up the largest share of the U.S. consumer population at 82 million people, beating out millennials by 2 million.
Generational cohorts are defined by birth years rather than age, so the age range of Gen Z will continue to shift over time. Most sources agree that Gen Z begins around 1997 and ends around 2010, so as of 2020, the Generation Z age range is roughly between 10 and 23 years old. Many of the oldest members of Gen Z now make up a significant portion of the workforce.
Generation Z is the most diverse generation so far in United States history, with 49 percent who identify themselves as non-white. They are also considered digital natives since they grew up after the advent of the Internet and during the rise of smartphones—in fact, one figure shows that 98 percent of Generation Z members own a smartphone. As such, Generation Z is known for spending much more time online or connected to a smart device than previous generations, the average being three hours a day.
Another trend that researchers have observed from Gen Z is their desire for personal financial education and stability. Many grew up watching their parents struggle through the Great Recession. As a result, they are concerned about future finances and preparing now by opening savings accounts and avoiding debt.
Before Generation Z was defined more precisely, they were often lumped together with millennials. It’s true that the two generations share some similarities. Some of these shared characteristics are:
Progressive political views
Comfort with technology
Social media presence
Focus on personal finance
However, there are several notable differences between millennials and Generation Z—enough to draw a line between the two cohorts and define them separately. These are a few ways that Gen Z stands apart from the millennial generation:
Concerned about digital privacy
Because Gen Z has only recently entered the workforce, it’s not yet clear how they will be defined in the workplace. Early research suggests they tend to be independent, hard-working, and highly educated. Because of the financial hardships they witnessed while growing up, they seem to be motivated by job stability and financial incentives. As the most diverse generation, they are also concerned with issues of equality and want to work for organizations that prioritize such.
Perhaps one of the most evident workforce characteristics of Generation Z is their penchant for multitasking. Many are used to quickly switching between apps and may take a similar approach to their work projects.
Despite their always-on relationship with technology, Gen Z employees tend to prefer face-to-face communication over digital alternatives. In fact, one figure shows that as much as 72 percent report that they prefer in-person conversations. This may be a response to the swing toward collaboration tools like chat and email in the workplace, and employers could start to see a shift back to more traditional, interpersonal communication.