Every generation demands its own new standards and leaves its mark on the world, and analysts the world over are currently anticipating how GenZ will distinguish itself from the Millennials, Generation Xers, and Boomers who currently dominate the world’s offices. In Orange Silicon Valley’s new GenZ handbook, our team explores current research and wisdom from the tech world about what we can expect.
The learnings come from OSV’s recent GenZ Summit, where we welcomed thought-leaders to a series of discussions about who GenZ follows, what its cohort needs to thrive, and how GenZers will work as they enter corporate workplaces and co-working spaces. The answers we collected highlighted similarities with Millennials, but we also found a generation guided by self-direction, technological savvy, and a sense of empowerment to improve livelihoods across the planet.
So what did we discover? Below are just 10 of the most interesting details about GenZ that were proposed. To read more, just download the full handbook (which is free), and take look at the rich insights from our guests, who included McCann World Group Director of Global Innovation Elav Horwitz, Venmo Director of Business Development Jay Parekh, Save Our Oceans Alliance founder Daniela Fernandez, and many others. Here’s a sample of what they had to say:
1. GenZers are live-streaming natives with the capacity to use those skills as entrepreneurs.
For GenZ, the quest for friends over live digital platforms can be the start of something bigger. Singer and influencer Molly O’Malia articulated this journey in her story about building her own brand and audience: “I was looking for friends, I never thought I’d end up with a half-million followers.”
2. For GenZ, tech is eliminating intermediaries for talent and communties.
Andrew Graham, an agent with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in Hollywood, reps GenZ influencers and spoke about his experience at the workshop. He characterized these influencers as “multi-hyphenists,” noting their role with their fans as an all-around entertainment source. On pre-YouTube platforms such as cable television and film, artists were much more dependent on studios, networks, and other gatekeepers to connect them with audiences and build their brands. Today, performers including O’Malia and Wes Tucker, who also spoke at our workshop, have the abilities to build and engage directly with their viewership, allowing them to own access to their communities more effectively than their predecessors. And that puts GenZers in more direct control of their brands.
“What Tech has done for Entrepreneurship, it is doing for Talent,” Graham said.
3. Online communities are a part of how they understand the world.
GenZ and its content are nearly inseparable in their day-to-day lives. Content and memes have always been a binding force for community, and the rise of a new generation of “makers” on the world’s first social video platform, YouTube, has shaken Hollywood to its foundations. But here’s the deal: GenZ has so much content to manage that it has to develop sophisticated filters. In fact, we could all probably benefit from them. Content consumption and assessment strategies range from multiple accounts and personas, to masking audio for consumption of video in public places, to coping strategies for cyberbullying.
4. They’re savvy about their personal brands.
Ironically, the artless origin story of just looking for friends online just happens to set these multihyphenate digital celebrities up perfectly for a broad spectrum of brand sponsors. For influencers like Wes Tucker, this poses major authenticity challenges: from how to relate to hundreds of thousands of followers — “I care about the people who follow me, but I can’t care about all of them,” he said — to the complicated role of mediating between Fans and Brands: “I don’t want people that are following me on a daily basis to give them crap … I have to enjoy the product, because if I don’t like it I’m not gonna tell anyone to buy it.”
5. Their information feeds are globally connected.
“Discovering information in feeds makes GenZ into global thinkers,” said Sharethrough Research Director Melinda Staros, who observed that GenZ is the first generation to absorb its news through content feeds. That macro level of awareness forces young social media users to think of themselves in wide contexts, especially where their personal brands are concerned. Of course, that truth has a flip side as well, which is the pixelization of attention. In a global marketplace, the competition for awareness is intense.
6. Critical thinking skills are as important to them as they have been to any generation before, perhaps even more so.
GenZ is the first native population to openly operate in a platform world that has conceded to being targeted and manipulated by algorithmic disinformation programs. The nature of these programs is to deliver exactly what the community wants to see and hear. As the first cohort to grow up in the “post-truth” era, GenZ faces a crueler paradox than any before them have — more content than ever, but also more critical perspective needed to sort it all out.
7. Appropriation in an inherent part of their community-driven content models.
From a content perspective, the impact on legacy entertainment industry players, as well as the formation of new content production companies, is a hunt to profitably create community-driven content. A corollary is how to create communities around premium content, as legacy studio Lionsgate Films showed with its Hunger Games franchise, marrying the big-screen product to social media on millions of smaller screens. Indeed, This target-and-binge model creates the breeding ground for superspecialized boutique studios, popping up at the street level, but broadcasting at web scale, like Donut Media (automotive), or the aforementioned (quite large) Twitch for esports. This hyper-specialization creates the grounds for another dynamic within the content industry: appropriation. Since communities have web-scale appetites for related content, the community-driven content model thrives on appropriation.
“Give fans the means to make content from your content,” John Dodini, the head of business development at Gfycat, told the audience at the workshop. That might have been a startling way to look at marketing and media for generations in the past. But for GenZ it’s just part of the expected consumption experience.
8. They are uniquely empowered and motivated to become entrepreneurs.
Today’s technologies and social platforms don’t just empower GenZers to be brand managers. They’re also market analysts with real-time abilities that their parents lacked. With screens everywhere and always at hand, content becomes the way we communicate: in terms of how we self-identify, the tribal codes and conduct we adhere to, and who is “inside” our circle of trust and who/what is outside. As one of the speakers at our GenZ workshop, Mathieu De Fayet, pointed out, we are living through an inversion of the traditional saying that “with great power comes great responsibility”: Thanks to digital’s analytics-driven content creation for the GenZ audience, with the responsibility of user data collection comes great power.
9. They’ve been watching Millennials’ struggles.
“5.6 million US-based Millennials who held a job in 2000 did not hold one in 2010,” according to research from Deloitte. The scars of the Recession — which impacted Millennials as the cohort with the highest of unemployment (13.4%) — are still real. GenZ has been watching from the sidelines as Millennials dig out from massive student debt, with the other eye on the looming impact of automation on entry-level jobs at employers ranging from supermarkets to law firms. If there’s a desire to become entrepreneurial that driven by ambivalence and caution, look no further than this stat for GenZ’s motivation.
10. Automation will drive powerful trends within the GenZ labor market.
The upshot of the automation wave within the larger context of digital transformation is that higher-order skills are the new entry-level — the bar has been raised from repetitive tasks to jobs that need what Deloitte calls “higher-order critical thinking and reasoning.”
The good news is that GenZ is hungry for the opportunity. The even better news is that Millennials (1) think GenZ is up to the challenge and (2) want to help. Deloitte’s Kelly Monahan posits what Millennials have to say to GenZ, their partners in the future workplace: “Learn as much as you can…. Work hard… Be patient…. Be flexible…. Develop people skills…. Look for supportive mentors…. Seek stability.”
To read more about our about what’s ahead for GenZ, download our full report for free.
Brian Warmoth also contributed to this post.