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What Business Needs to Know About Gen Z

 

What does Gen-Z mean to you? Do you have any assumptions about this generation? 

The Gen-Z generation are those born after the year 1995. Currently, Gen-Z is entering the workforce with a unique knowledge surrounding social media and technology. With more businesses creating social media presences and incorporating complex technology, businesses are turning to Gen-Z to tackle them. 

If you were to ask someone about the Gen-Z generation and technology, most people would mention how Gen-Z has grown up with both ever-changing technology and social media their entire lives. Many assume that Gen-Z has an innate knowledge about both and are able to use them easily. Why is this? 

Gen-Z was raised at a time when some of the biggest technological game-changers were introduced: Microsoft (1995), camera phones (2000), Facebook (2004), Youtube (2005), the iPhone (2007), and Instagram (2012).  

Despite this, the majority of Gen-Z employees admit that they lack confidence surrounding technology and social media as they have not used it for business purposes. Many Gen-Z do not have a business mindset surrounding social media platforms and technology. 

I belong to the Gen-Z generation, having been born in the year 2000. Since entering into the workforce, I have jumped headfirst into the business world’s version of social media and technology. Since working as the Elkay Advisors Intern, I have learned a different side of social media and creative technology that I was never exposed to before. Currently, I am studying marketing at my university - four years in and I’ve had only one class dedicated to Photoshop and no exposure to other social media-related courses. 

In my first week of this internship alone, I learned how to create videos using programs like Lumen 5 (learn more about those programs here), how to properly create copy for social media posts, and what times during the day get the most views. I now know how to proficiently use a multitude of programs like Google Drive and Canva and yet before this, I was not instructed properly on how to use social media. I only knew how to use social media for entertainment, not business. 

So why is it that Gen-Z workers are believed to know all there is about technology if no one has ever taught us?

Through a non-scientific survey,150 of my peers answered a series of questions regarding social media, the workforce, and assumptions employers have regarding Gen-Z workers. 

When asked if they know how to use social media proficiently (building your brand), 72% of respondents said they know how to use social media beyond having basic followers and sharing and yet less than 10% have any sort of “brand” they have created. 94% of respondents found a multitude of social media platforms easy to use when it came to regular posting and sharing, as at least 86% have had social media for the last 10 to 11 years. 

When asked if they knew how to use social media to the specific advantages of building a brand, overall content creation, engaging with followers, and pulling interest from potential followers, only 3% of those who responded knew how to “build a brand” for business. 

When asked about the assumptions the respondents have heard about Gen-Z, the responses differed significantly.

Here are some of the assumptions that were listed:

  • Gen-Z is always on social media and it runs our lives. 
  • Everyone assumes that Gen-Z is gifted at technology automatically and knows how to pick up any program with ease. 
  • Social media is essential to have in society and that we’re the only ones who like it. 
  • All of social media and technology is super easy for us to use tech because we “grew up with it”. 
  • We are social media experts. 
  • Since we’ve grown up with technology, we automatically know how to use/fix any technological issue. 

According to this article by Society For HR Management, “[Despite record-high college enrollment] Generation Z still feels unprepared to enter the workforce, with only half crediting college or high-school experience as critical preparation for the working world. For instance, significant percentages of Generation Z members said their education didn't prepare them for workplace activities such as negotiating, networking, confident public speaking or working long hours. Nor do many of them feel prepared to resolve work conflicts or be managed by another person.”

So how should employers help Gen Z to bridge the gap between being a native tech user and a savvy user? Jon Bradshaw of Forbes says that “it's important to let tech talent from this generation have their own projects and work rather than micromanaging their efforts. Provide them with the tools and space they need to ignite this creativity”.

While deadlines and projects are necessary to keep progress moving, give your Gen-Z workers time to learn the programs and platforms you want them to learn. While most grew up with a phone in hand, the large majority were not provided the information to use the tools created for them.

In summary, based on my experience, research, and non-scientific survey results, the assumptions made are not accurate. Instead, Gen-Z needs instruction in using tools from the business side of things. They are quick to learn but need time to practice and understand social media from a business perspective. 

Guest post by Olivia Nieto, marketing intern for Elkay Advisors, LLC. She is currently attending Cairn University for her Dual-Level MBA/Marketing degree. She aspires to work in fiction publishing or in a business administration role. In addition to school, Olivia works full time and is an upperclassmen on her university’s softball team.

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