They may be young, but they are more powerful than you think!

Anyone that has been reading my newsletter for anytime will know that I have an interest in Millennials and the effect that they are having on businesses in the US, both as consumers of products and services, and also as employees. According to the Center for Generational Kinetics the definition of a Millennial is any one born between 1977 and 1995. The generation born after the Millennials (1996 onward), are called iGen or Gen Z, and they are a very different breed.

Although most of the iGen are still children and adolescents, meaning that many of their adult traits are not yet apparent, there are already some very significant differences between them and the generation that immediately preceded them. Let’s first look at what challenges iGen might pose as employees.

The oldest iGen’ers are only just graduating college, but iGen’ers as a whole are less likely to go to college than Millennials. In Fall 2012, 19.7 million students were enrolled in college. Every year since, there has been a decline, such that by Fall 2016 there are only 18.6 million students enrolled, a 5% decline. The indications are that many iGen have learned from the Millennial’s, looked at the cost/benefit equation of college and decided that the benefits just aren’t there for them – they have gone straight into the workforce. Interestingly Summer Vacation working is also at an all time low, so it’s hard to say much about the iGen work ethic at this point, but it’s easy to infer that todays teens prefer to have more leisure time than extra cash –maybe because we, their GenX-er parents, are still paying them allowances?

iGen may not actually become your employees, but they could be your competition. 72% say that one day they would like to own their own business. The oldest iGen’ers are currently only 22 years old, so it may be a while before we will be able to tell if that desire turns into a reality. Unfortunately, even if they do fulfill their desires, they are unlikely to be in a position to do it in time to buy all of the businesses that the retiring Baby Boomers want to sell.

One thing that we already recognize about iGen is their absolute reliance on their smart phones. 92% of iGen have a digital footprint. They are constantly connected and after oxygen their next greatest need is WiFi – or unlimited data! They pride themselves on getting answers quickly, but because of their reliance on the internet, the sources they use aren’t always going to be accurate. The app’s they prefer to use are also different – Snapchat, Instagram and Tinder – where the content is often image based rather than written. Gen Z’s future supervisors and managers will have to know that for their employees leaving their cell phone at home—or even leaving it in a drawer—is simply not an option.

So much for iGen in the workplace. How do they fare as potential customers and clients?

iGen are less interested in price than Millennials – maybe because they don’t have such strong memories of the recession – but they still want things quickly. In the age where Amazon Prime 2 day (or even 2 hour depending on what you want and where you live) delivery is the norm, anything else is SLOW! If these guys are part of your customer demographic (and if they’re not now, they will be), you need to change the way you operate to accommodate them.

This generation will order pizza over the internet – not by making a phone call, and they expect you to deliver; they will do their banking almost entirely on their smart phone; and they prefer to make reservations for anything from a car service to a restaurant booking from their smartphone. Speed and accessibility is key. If you’re selling online and they have to make more than 3 key strokes to purchase, you’ve already lost them.

iGen is very ecologically aware, worrying about how the Baby Boomers and GenX have damaged their planet, and they are interested in the ecological credentials of the businesses that they purchase from. As a vendor you need to be very aware of this. It may be too early to fully understand how much of a trade off iGen is willing to make between ethical purchases and cost, but the popularity of brands such as Tom’s Shoes and Starbucks amongst iGen would seem to point toward the former being more important than the latter.

The members of iGen want to be seen as unique; they certainly don’t want to be lumped in with Millennial’s, heck, they don’t even want to be treated as a generation. They want to be seen as individuals, and they expect brands and companies to be loyal to them or they will move on.  One of the things that we need to understand is that due to the global nature of news and content sharing, an iGen in the USA will probably identify more closely with another iGen in India or Poland, than they would with a Millennial in their own country. This will have profound effects on the way that goods and services are marketed. TV advertising, paper flyers and even radio commercials will be far less effective than online mobile advertising to reach this generation.

So as a Baby Boomer, GenX’er or Millennial business owner there are a lot of changes you need to consider as you prepare to integrate iGen in to your workforce and even more changes that will be forced on your sales and marketing and logistics departments if you are going to successfully service the next generation and ensure that your companies survive.

If you have any worries or concerns about the incoming generation of workers, or maybe you have potential opportunities that would benefit from being discussed with industry experts, please give us a call at Jager Consulting on (440) 385-6737.