by Natrah Mohd Emran | Rushaizzad Abdul Rahim

Millennials – the generation that surpassed baby boomers in size will eventually surpass their spending power. Yet a new and even bigger generation that follows the Millennials – Generation Z, also called the ‘post-Millennials’ – is already coming of age.

Generation Z, born from 1995 onward, already makes up more than one-fourth of the Malaysian population, and is adding to its numbers every year. Latest census showed that Gen Z comprises 2 billion people worldwide, including 9.06 million in Malaysia.

This brief profiles members of Gen Z. It outlines five characteristics of post-Millennials, describing why these characteristics will help shape them as consumers and workers as they reach adulthood, and suggests some of the outcomes for the future of this generation.

FIVE CHARACTERISTICS OF GEN Z
Although the definition of Gen Z varies from source to source, with some including those born as early as 1990, this brief considers Gen Z as those born from 1995 onward. This means that the oldest members of this generation turned 18 in 2013 and have begun entering university/ college or the workforce, but the vast majority are still children.

Gen Z has been and continues to be shaped by different influences than the Millennial Generation.
As a result, it has developed characteristics that distinguish it from older generations – traits that will influence the working culture, consumerism, and content preferences in years to come.

While more members of this generation continue to be born every year, these children and very young adults already represent the largest generation in Malaysia. They account for 29.7% of the Malaysian population – a higher share than either Millennials (24.2%) or boomers (13.4%).

gen Z is more than tech savvy – digital natives, even more so than the millennials who preceded them. they have never known a world without smartphones

Gen Z in different country maybe different countries has different characteristics. Racial and cultural diversity is the norm in many countries, including Malaysia. The education system that focuses on mainstreaming and diversity, helps shape the Gen Z into collaborative team players. In addition, their experience on social media, including establishing friendships around the world, has also contributed to their ability to get along with diverse minds.

Their acceptance and embracement of diversity, as well as their ability to transcend differences (older generations may have found daunting), makes members of Gen Z well-prepared for an increasingly global business environment. Both hyper-local and hyper-global – knowing what is going on in the immediate vicinity as well as on a global scale – Gen Z will likely collaborate well with colleagues of all kinds when entering the global workforce.

Trait #1: Digital immersion
Gen Z is more than tech savvy – digital natives, even more so than the Millennials who preceded them. They have never known a world without smartphones, they have grown up together, experience everything in life together since birth, all through the eyes and lens of their shiny little gadgets.

Gen Z devote many of their waking hours to screentime, which usually encompasses multiple kinds of screens. A study by the International University and Colleges (INTI) in 2015 shows that more than 80% of Gen Z are looking at between one to three screens on a daily basis. The consistent usage of screens in their lives means that post-Millennials are largely visually oriented, preferring to watch rather than read.

As a result of this immersion, Gen Z have developed a remarkable facility in the digital world. They not only socialise online, but also have become adept online researchers and frequently seek knowledge online – for instance, learning how to do new things or use new gadgets by watching YouTube videos.

Trait #2: Surprising social skills
Most members of Gen Z comprising teenagers and preteens, have created a digitally focused social life. The online survey of teen Wikia users found that just 43% of respondents value their time when unplugged. More than four of five online teens are on at least one social network: Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, or another of the numerous options. Many say they find it easier to talk online than in person.

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There is concern that the devotion of Gen Z to screentime will make it socially inept – not only as teenagers, but later as adults. However, although immersed in the digital world from an early age, most Gen Z has also been schooled in emotional intelligence from a similarly young age. Human connections matter most to Gen Z, and clear face-to-face communication is important to their future success. So, in a working environment, if you want their participation, instead of just instant messaging them, invite them into a meeting. They value relationships, especially in light of their multicultural upbringing, thus make them both tolerant and respectful of others as they find their place in the social world.

Trait #3: Fear of Missing Out
Constant connectivity resulting Gen Z – to want and expect – to be on top of everything going on around them, be it on a local, national, and global scale. They want to be in the loop about everything, and many are strongly motivated by a fear of missing out (FOMO).

Discovering new things, and search for products and experiences that offer something different, fresh, and exciting are what Gen Z love to do. At this stage, they want to be unique and express its individuality – to avoid being like everyone else or anything like the generations before. However, ironically, this often means doing things the same way with the peers of their generation: buying the same things, wearing the same clothes, not missing out on the newest style or trend.

Trait #4: Practicality and a work ethic
Accesses to knowledge and information, and sharing of experience among friends have broadened the views on how the Gen Z see things. Despite their youth, Gen Z is already looking to the future, practical, pragmatic, and independent. They are looking ahead and taking steps to get where they want to go, even preparing contingency plans in case things do not go exactly as expected.

Their practical mind-set may spring from their parenting (largely the Gen X) – the Gen Z are given more free rein and allowed to be self-directed. Gen Z show signs of being more entrepreneurial as they have access to more people, resources and information earlier in life by way of the Internet.

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Gen Z are used to being taught, being constant learners and giving input. Therefore, once something has captured their attention and truly interests them, Gen Z are capable of intense focus. In fact, Gen Z consumers can become excellent brand ambassadors. When they like something, they generally stay loyal to it and willingly spread the word, both in person and through social media.

Trait #5: Financial savvy
Although the oldest members of Gen Z are just turning 20, they do have some degree of financial awareness. A 2014 survey found that 60% of 13- to 17-year-olds are already saving money. And half of these teenagers think they know more about money than their parents did at their age. Despite the looming weight of student loans, Gen Z places a high priority on achieving financial stability. The high interest of teenagers in practical aspects of financial planning suggests that in early adulthood, this generation will likely be seeking to balance paying off outstanding student loans and saving for both major purchases and retirement.

These financial goals may prompt many in Gen Z to put off their long-term entrepreneurial aspirations in the interest of more financial stability. For this reason, companies may find it worthwhile to step up recruitment efforts among university/college graduates in upcoming years.

CONCLUSION
These five characteristics are just a few of many emerging trends describing Gen Z. Most of Gen Z sees digital as an essential part of their future and believe that their experience with technology will help them reach their goals. Having grown up in a digital world, members of Gen Z are likely to expect and maintain digital connections in their adult lives. As consumers, many will continue to gravitate toward the latest, most versatile devices, and will increasingly expect almost everything they own to offer connectivity. As workers, they will expect their jobs to involve the employment of digital tools – and most will have an almost instinctive command of information technology, even new and innovative devices.

Reference:

  1. Department of Statistics’ 2010 survey, https://asiafoundation.org/resources/pdfs/2012NationalYouthSurvey.pdf
  2. Bill Alberti, “Still Obsessing over Millennials? Here Are 6 Rules for Reaching Generation Z,” Adweek, May 21, 2015, www.adweek.com.
  3. Jeremy Finch, “What Is Generation Z, and What Does It Want?” Fast Company, May 4, 2015, www.
    fastcoexist.com.
  4. Ruth Bernstein, “Move over Millennials—Here Comes Gen Z,” Advertising Age, January 21, 2015, http://adage.com
  5. “Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned about Millennials,” Sparks & Honey, June 17, 2014, www.slideshare.net
  6. INTI International University Conducts Survey On Gen Z In Malaysia, http://www.laureate.net/
    OurNetwork/AsiaPacific/Malaysia/INTIInternationalUniversityColleges/Content/Public/
    AnnouncementContentFolder/2015/03/INTI-International-University-Conducts-Survey-On-Gen-Z-In-Malaysia
  7. Advertising Age, January 21, 2015, http://adage.com
  8. “Make Way for Generation Z,” New York Times, March 28, 2015, www.nytimes.com
  9.  Matt Powell, “Sneakernomics: Meet Gen Z,” Forbes, April 29, 2015, www.forbes.com
  10. “Generation Z: A Look at the Technology and Media Habits of Today’s Teens,” Wikia, March 28, 2013, www.wikia.com
  11. Christopher Heine, “Infographic: Gen Z and Millennials Want Different Things from Brands,” Adweek, March 31, 2015, www.adweek.com
  12. “Generation Z: A Look at the Technology and Media Habits of Today’s Teens,”Wikia, March 28, 2013, www.wikia.com.
  13. Laurence Benhamou, “Everything You Need to Know about Generation Z,” Business Insider, February 12, 2015, www.businessinsider.com
  14. “Survey Results: Are We All Wrong about the Screen Addicted Gen Z?” Global Trends, 2015, www.globaltrends.com
  15. “Generation Z’ Is Entrepreneurial, Wants to Chart Its Own Future,” Northeastern University, November 18, 2014, www.northeastern.edu
  16. Leonid Bershidsky, “Will Generation Z Disconnect?” BloombergView, November 18, 2014, www.bloombergview.com

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