Generation Z (or Gen Z for short), is the demographic cohort succeeding millennials (also known as Generation Y).

Members of Gen Z — loosely, people born from 1995 to 2010 — are true digital natives and from their youngest years, have been exposed to the internet, to social networks, and to mobile systems.

Over the last few years, Gen Z has been derided by the media and there is a common understanding among those over 25 that an entire generation is lazy, self-entitled, unmotivated, and all-around disappointing. But is this a complete misconception? Has Gen Z been tarred with this brush unfairly? 

We asked Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (ATEED) intern Rafi Baboe to tell us what makes Gen Z tick and what attributes they can bring to the employment market.

Welcome to my Gen Z world

Gen Z. Zoomers. iGeneration. Digital natives. When you hear these terms do you feel perplexed, or scared, or are you ambivalent? If you are an employer, all I ask is that you try to understand my generation, because we’ve arrived and we’re starting to infiltrate your businesses, both as consumers and employees. 

As an intern working in ATEED’s Skills and Workforce team, but more importantly as an elder in the Gen Z community, I’d like to take this opportunity to give you some insights about my generation. 

Whenever I hear people talking about Gen Z, the same things come up again and again. The media and businesses portray us as having an overall dissatisfaction with pay, and anxiety over lack of advancement and development opportunities. I believe this ultimately fuels a mindset where we are perceived as always looking for the next opportunity, and we’re not expected to stay in one place for too long -  this belief is also corroborated by research done by Deloitte which cites these factors as being the biggest reason for near-term exits from employment for young people1.  I have experienced this first-hand and have seen many of my peers decide to look overseas for career opportunities.

I think the key tension here is one about personal agency. Young people want to be in control of as many aspects of their lives as possible, including their careers. The best thing employers can do to engage and retain someone from my generation, is to regularly inform them of the career opportunities and pathways they can provide. And guess what?  You can talk to us face-to-face, because contrary to popular belief, we prefer to get up close and personal with people, as well as with our screens.   

We’re not all IT wizards

According to Deloitte’s Global Millennial Survey (which includes Gen Z), while 71 per cent of respondents feel positive about their personal use of digital devices and social media, it doesn’t mean that we are technical geniuses.  While most young people appear to live on social media 24/7, just like other generations, the types of technology and social media we use can be very diverse. We don’t have proficiency across all technologies – for example, I still have trouble with Microsoft Office because my family computer was a Mac.

Even if we’re not the next Elon Musk, employers don’t have to worry. In my experience, most of us are very quick to learn. As an employee, you might want to consider offering new technology responsibilities to younger people on the team, providing them with leadership opportunities. I am more than happy being the go-to tech person in a team.

Understanding mental health

Unfortunately, my generation is shaping up to be the most depressed and anxious generation to date. In New Zealand, 20 per cent of young people are likely to experience a mental health issue, and almost one in five meet the criteria for an anxiety disorder by age 19   

For my own part, I cannot overstate the importance of understanding mental health for people in my generation. Many people I know have struggled with their mental health, but it’s important to realise that having an awareness of mental health issues does not necessarily mean that young people know how to deal with these challenges. I believe it is necessary for employers to create an environment where employees feel comfortable managing their mental health, and one where an employee would not hesitate in being open about their mental health with their colleagues.

Caring has no age restrictions 

If you’ve been looking at the news recently, you may see young people at the forefront of protests on several issues, but should this be a concern for employers? 

In my experience, the various reports are correct in that we care strongly about climate change. However, on all other global current issues such as the plight of refugees or the global rise of extremism, there is less consensus.

Gen Z is very much like other generations in that we ultimately care more about local issues that will tangibly impact our lives in the future, such as the housing crisis, or the future of employment in New Zealand and what effect these issues will have on our personal lives and careers. 

We’re not alone in believing that sustainability should be a core aspect of every decision business leaders make and it is a factor when we seek an organisation to work for. This is something that cuts across all generations - just like you, salary, location and job satisfaction are priorities for us too!

Generation why?

What I’ve learnt during the last few months at ATEED is that while squeezing people into arbitrary demographics can be a useful exercise, it never accurately reflects the individual’s upbringing, experiences or ideals. 

For me, there is more to Gen Z than the generalisations and ideas perpetuated by the media. I ask that you take the time to meet us and understand your future workforce - after all, we’ll be helping to shape the next generation. 

Tāmaki Makaurau is becoming future ready.

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