To Attract Gen Z, What Will Businesses Have to Do?

Much has been written about Millennials in the workplace, but by the year 2020, Gen Z (aka Post-Millennials), will account for a whopping 40% of the US population. It’s time for businesses to start thinking more actively about this generation, born and reared in the 1990s and 2000s, and how they should adjust their approaches in everything from recruiting to direct sales in order to reach them.

Mario Bartels is a Senior Consultant with Vivaldi, a strategic management consultancy group, headquartered in New York City. He has a passion for branding and entrepreneurship and co-founded a German tech startup focusing on “the first mile of shipping.” He notes that one of the things that most clearly defines Gen Z is that they are digital natives. “These Snapchatters and Instagrammers already make up 25% of the US population — and contribute $44 billion to the economy each year,” Bartels notes. “Born with instant access to mountains of data, and shaped by the war on terror and the most recent serious recession, they have a unique view of the world. This differentiates Gen Z from their immediate predecessors, the Millennials.”

The combination of entrepreneurial spirit and philanthropic mindset makes them a unique target for startups, both from a marketing and human resources perspective. According to Bartels, to attract Gen Z’ers as customers and bring them in as talent, startups must understand three crucial dynamics:

1. Be real

Gen Z’ers are hungry, and constantly on the search for education and inspiration. “63% of these young people prefer to be engaged by real people. They seek inspiration from YouTubers, bloggers, and social influencers,” Bartels notes. “Startups need to follow suit by sharing content that is insightful yet authentic. The ‘Behind the Scenes at Shyp’ blog post, for example, offers insights into the daily routines of their employees, while also having actual customers talk about their experiences SHYP, a custom packaging service. This startup’s authentic human touch satisfies their Gen Z’ers interest in relatable and educational information.”

2. Be engaging

Gen Z’ers do not want to sit back and be entertained — they want to be a part of the experience and leave their own mark. “In just eight seconds, they usually decide whether something is worthy of their attention. If it is, they will commit and focus. But getting past their initial (and speedy) filter requires the promise of an engaging experience. Provide a Gen Z with a tangible way to get involved in your brand, and the payoff is huge: they’ll become brand advocates to their cohort. While Millennials brought about the age of sharing branded content, Gen Z’ers prefer to create it themselves,” Bartels explains.

3. Do good

“Being raised in the post 9/11 era, watching their parents struggle through a difficult recession, Gen Z’ers have a distinct sense of social justice, philanthropy, and maturity,” Bartels notes. “In contrast to the more optimistic Millennials who preceded them, they are both more realistic and more hands-on, knowing that change for the better will not come unless and until action is taken. This results in 60% of Generation Z aiming for a job that makes a positive impact on the world; they specifically seek out career opportunities that will fulfill this key value.”

Bartels summarizes: “Startups should move past traditional corporate social responsibility programs and find new and creative ways to do good that fit the mission of the company. For example, Warby Parker, the online eyeglass company, adopted the ‘One for One’ philosophy of TOM’s Shoes and matched a good cause with a successful business model in an authentic way. Startups need to define their mission, and convey the good it brings to Gen Z’ers, in order to reach them.

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