Rise of Generation Z

By Reynaldo C. Lugtu, Jr.

Posted on July 14, 2017

While watching my 19-year-old daughter at home with her friends playing some arcane group games, while checking on their smartphones, I couldn’t help but think about this next generation of youngsters, collectively known as Generation Z or the 16-19 years of age group. What’s going to be their impact to society? How will they be as consumers and workers? There has been much talk about millennials, but businesses and institutions should start planning around the emergence of this distinct generation, also known as Gen Z in short, which is numbering numbers approximately two billion globally and comprising more than 20% of the population in the Philippines.

In her seminal book From Boomers to Linksters: Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work, author Meagan Johnson defines Gen Z or those born after 2002 (and therefore post-millennial) as the Linkster generation, because it is the first generation to be linked into technology from day one.

This is one of the characteristics of Gen Zs, that is, they are dependent on technology, smartphones and apps, and social media for help and expertise. As a result, the skill of face-to-face communication will deteriorate; hence, potentially there will be more misunderstandings and miscommunications among this group and within others.

In addition, “as each generation is believed to get more progressively liberal and tolerant, it is likely Linksters will be highly socially aware and accepting”; hence, Gen Z “will be more accepting and probably take the idea of different lifestyles to a different level.”

With these basic characteristics of Gen Z, coupled with my interaction with them in the university, organizations, and at home, here are some of my evaluations of Gen Z:

1. They are better at multi-tasking and split-tasking. Compared to millennials, performing multiple tasks at the same time is hardwired in their brains. They can create a document on their computer, do research on their tablet, take notes on a notepad, while talking to a friend virtually. They can quickly and efficiently shift between work and play, real and virtual in bursts of intense attention with multiple distractions going on in the background.

Many attribute this behavior to having less focus. That is true, but then again it doesn’t mean they are less effective and efficient. They are just an evolved generation who can perform multiple tasks. Just think about how this kind of behavior will reshape the workplace. Newer collaborative tools and interfaces should be fast and efficient enough to accommodate multiple tasks. Imagine the need for advertisers to work differently.

According to a landmark study of Kantar Millward Brown titled “AdReaction: Engaging Gen X, Y and Z”, which surveyed more than 23,000 consumers in 39 countries, brands need to work hard to capture the attention of Gen Z when they are consuming media -- either traditional or digital -- or risk being missed altogether. Moreover, according to this study, advertisers need to use humor in their ads to effectively capture the attention of Filipino Gen Zs.

2. More early-starters. Many employers are predicting that more Gen Z students go straight into the workforce, opting out of the traditional route of higher education, and, instead finishing school online, will go straight into apprenticeships or internships.

As an example, my 19-year old daughter has mastered analytics programming and tools in a short span of time. Her employers tracked her in social media and urging her to work for them even before graduation. Since Gen Zs easily and quickly learn new things, while there’s a gap of skill in the workforce, employers are willing to get them to fill the skills gap.

3. They have higher expectations. Since they were born with technology at their hands, what was deemed to be inspiring, innovative, and unique are now taken as a given among teens.

Engaging Gen X, Y and Z highlights that Gen Z in the Philippines are harder to impress in comparison to the older generations. According to the Kantar Millward Brown study, they expect more from brand advertising and are less easily impressed with new formats such as augmented reality or sponsored lenses than previous generations, favoring humor as the key characteristic of a successful ad.

4. They are more entrepreneurial. My daughter shared that many of her classmates have start-ups, some already successful. Gen Z’s access to technology and tools, and their ability to process multiple information has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially. They desire more independent work environments. According to one survey in the US, 72 percent of teens say they want to start a business someday.

Generation Z is indeed a different crop compared to millennials. Businesses, marketers, and even institutions need to prepare for their rise into the mainstream workforce and consumer populace.

Reynaldo C. Lugtu Jr. is a senior executive in the information and communications technology sector. He is the Chairman of the ICT Committee of the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines. He teaches strategic management in the MBA Program of De La Salle University. He is also Adjunct Faculty of the Asian Institute of Management.