Our Z Generation: what to expect ?

Let’s prepare our children for their future,

and not for coping with our past”


Bertan Gülkok

Michel de Kemmeter

 Grez-Doiceau, july 2013 – for UHDR UniverseCity

  1. Introduction and basics


Definition of the Z Generation : people who are born in a time period between 1994/1995 and the mid 2000.

They are the psychological evolution of the Y Generation, who have impressed everybody with their lifestyle, focused on balance between professional life and private life. Now you know the Y generation and how different they are to manage, imagine the Gen Z…

One of the evidences of the evolution is the connection between these youngsters. Every kid who has a pc at home has developed a ability for computers. Their knowledge and interconnection is impressive.

They are very important for the other generations, because they are their legacy – they will create a new world system (political, economical and social). They will transform society from individual greed to collective progress. They will have to, because older generations are too rigid and change-averse. There is no urgency for them, but if the Gen Z want a future, they will have to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. We are talking about 3 billion youngsters, nearly half of the world’s population. In a way, they are on their own…

This means they will have a very big influence in the evolution of the world -whether we want it or not. Scientists say that one out of ten will be a worker before 2020.

Doesn’t this prove enough that we should invest into this generation by helping them to accomplish their dreams and build their future ? And… listen to what they have to say, and use their unique creativity.

  1. Their heritage

Debt: In the western world, they are born with a public debt to be paid for of 30,000 to 120,000 € per child. This doesn’t include cost of demography, liability of public building stock (unsustainable), liability of pollution of water, air and soil (ex. For Belgium, in 2030, the pensions will need 47 billion € more compared to 2012).

Education: a heritage of the 19th century, unadapted to fast changing needs and societal models (teachers and professors are kept in margin true challenges of society and economy). It mostly cannot provide more than medium quality profiles. It is not capable enough to connect children with their specific and true talent. Education stakeholders are reluctant to question existing pedagogic models.

The cost of quality higher education is becoming prohibitive.

Real estate will be more expensive because it will still be following a part of the old european fiscal plans to save the economy. They risk to be debt-enslaved. Access to housing will be harder because of risk-aversity of banks, and rising % of equity at buying.

And social housing is largely underplanned, especially with recession accelerating, millions of people will have no roof.

Employment market: They will begin in an employment atmosphere which is unstable. Employment will have less rights compared to more senior employees (volatility, contracts with limited duration, …). But maybe they will be the first to open up the space for a new kind of work: project-based, excellence and team-based, delocalized, network-based, knowledge tribes.

Working careers: They will have to work much longer (70/75 years old)

Retiring: They will have a less pension rights that the previous generations. Totally new ways to meet their needs will have to be created.

Health care:

  • Social security systems will be bankrupt within a few years
  • Over 65% of the population suffers stress, burnout, depression, mental and chronicle illnesses, overweight. It’s a sign of incoherence and lack of basic health and lifestyle education.


  • Soil (ex. For Belgium +/- 20 billion€ to cleanup)
  • Water
    • sea
    • surface waters
  • Air
  • Food: agriculture still plays with (unassessed on long term) toxic products in extensive cultures

Ecosystems, biodiversity and ecological sustainability:

Biodiversity has lowered swith human impact. Extensive agriculture, waste, urbanisation, GMOs, influence negatively ecosystems necessary for a balanced life on earth.

Climate change and sea levels:

  • Between 1870 and 2004, global average sea levels rose 195 mm (7.7 in).From 1950 to 2009, measurements show an average annual rise in sea level of 1.7 ± 0.3 mm per year, with satellite data showing a rise of 3.3 ± 0.4 mm per year from 1993 to 2009. It is acceleratring exponentially.
  • Despite 17 years of negotiations since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise. Since 2000 the rates of annual emissions growth have increased at rates at the upper end of the IPCC scenarios, presenting the global community with a stark challenge: either instigate an immediate and radical reversal in existing emission trends or accept global temperature rises well beyond 4°.

Resources: respective peaks will be reached, and deep challenges will hit us within 2 decades for

  • fossile energy
  • metals
  • food
  • water

Financial and economical models: linear models based on individual accumulation of material wealth are in checkmate – if all people would access to a western middle class situation, we would need 8 earths. Alternative models have a hard time emerging because of the people and institutions in place not wanting to question their power. Western world accelerates destruction, whereas third world countries the strongest hit by those changes have to face the problems without the financial fund to deal with them.

War for talent:

  • Within 8 years, in some western countries, there will be drastic shortages of manpower to run the countries, their administrations, healthcare, and their economies, whereas in some areas it already started (medical doctors, engineers, …)
  • Lots of excellent youngsters are expatriating to emerging markets to develop their talents and careers, leaving the others in home country …
  • Considering the waste of talent, at cost of western baremas, the actualized capital loss of human talent is around 250,000 billion€. The Gen Z’s risk to be “broken” by the education system and let their personal magic “die” before puberty. This would increase drastically the financial loss, and numerous lost opportunities for creative problem-solving for historical challenges.

Political issues:

  • The lack of long term perspective, of competence, and the unethical negociated governance has lost the trust of the public
  • The increasing complexity and risk freezes economies, entrepreneurship and political courage

Social peace: all these elements, combined with fear, will increase social unrest (like in Greece, Brazil, Turkey, Spain, Chile, Wall Street Usa,…)

Recent decisions: every decision will be taken by the older generations – having knowledge and decision power – and the generation Z will take the consequences without realizing. The previous generations do not sincerely care about this legacy.

  1. Their behavior
  • looking for instant gratification

  • Gen Zs need niche skills, but one-size-fits-all education is slow to catch up. Classical education does not promote individual talent development and multiple masterships (art, sports, science, specific excellences).
  • Lacking in a sense of privacy : personal lives are constantly on display
  • 74% of them prefer green and responsible products because they have seen terrorism, violence and pollution. Gen Zs are more concerned about purchasing environmentally safe products than the generations before them.

  • They tolerate and learn from diverse cultures

  • They live fast and have short attention span
  • tendency to multitask

  • Dating Blues. While many Gen Z’ers will fall in love and get married eventually, the casualness of sexual relationships and the breakdown of traditional courtship has made dating amongst Gen Z painful at times.

  • Gen Z’s absolutely accept the internet and dominance of digitalisation.
  • They are bright, their IQ scores are higher than previous generation
  • They are flexible in nature and expect flexibility from institutions.
  • Gen Zs are not brand loyal. They will mix and match everything from clothes brands to philosophies.
  • Gen Z teens and preteens have the biggest impact on the economy for that age group ever.  Their social media “likes,” product ratings, forum feedback has companies and marketers scrambling.
  • They have spend more on the economy than any generation before them at their age.  This is driven by gift cards like iTunes cards that are spent online.
  • They look for alternative ways to enter their professions as college costs soar.
  • They are mobile and connected, any time, any where, any device.
  • They seek freedom & and temporary consumption.
  • They are more in the present moment than previous generations (who are more in past or future projections)
  • GenY is optimistic, GenZ is realistic: they have grown up inside the great recession, with more violence, economical uncertainty. This makes them more conscious and security-minded, but will also inspire to improve the world. An early loss of innocance. Z’s feel a responsibility to change the status quo.
  • They can text, read, watch, talk and eat all at the same time, a talent that stuns adults. With this preference toward multitasking comes a dark side, which mental health experts are calling “acquired attention deficit disorder”. While they are able to complete many tasks at once, each task gets divided attention, and the generation is losing the ability to focus and analyze more lengthy, complex information.
  • Only 6% of Zs are fearful about the future. Having grown up amid major innovation and social change, Zs are inquisitive and globally aware.
  • As Zs are inquisitive and globally aware. They’re already offering suggestions, solving problems, and proving their savvy, demonstrating how prepared they are for stressful and uncertain times.
  • Poverty, climate change, human rights and oil supplies are on their minds as they pondered their futures.

Lee Crockett talks about the 21st century “fluencies”:

  • solution fluency: the ability to solve problems in real time
  • information fluency: the ability to find information, to determine its authenticity, to triangulate it, to assess it, to apply it to situations,
  • creativity fluency: the ability to create anything
  • media fluency: the ability to not be a victim of media, but being able to decode the message being sent to you, being able to determine what the real message is and how well its being communicated – and then being able to turn to the most accurate media to get your own information out
  • collaboration fluency: the ability to work with others in the same room or across the planet in workrooms

All these are wrapped in the context of the “digital citizen” – embedded in the GenZ since birth.

  1. How they consume
  • They consume large amounts of money in IT compared to the Y generation.
  • They are more online consumers than previous generations
  • 67% of the Generation Z rather get a tech gadget then a toy.
  • They look more for products and messaging that reflect their reality rather than that which depict a perfect life.
  • Gen Z s will be wary with their money. After seeing their parents lose jobs and their older siblings move back home, this generation will avoid debt.
  • They’ll be diligent researchers, always considering what’s a good investment
  • 74% of them prefer green and responsible products because they have seen terrorism, violence and pollution. Gen Zs are more concerned about purchasing environmentally safe products than the generations before them.

  • They are less likely to make impulse purchases.
  • 57% of Gen Zs said they would rather save money than spend it immediately.
  • Like Gen Ys, they’ll strongly consider whether college is worth the cost.
  • They’ll find the best deals and will expect to test out products physically or virtually before they buy.
  • Gen Zs will want brands to show their long-term value and make them feel safe.
  1. How to manage them
  • They have a very great knowledge about externalization. That’s why the should be managed in collective intelligence and team governance, thus stimulating their creativity and engagement.
  • They need a good and purposeful career plan to re-enchant and empower meaningful engagement.
  • The better young resources are moving to more promising and growing markets, creating a brain drain of management, scientific and entrepreneurial skills.
  • 65 % of grade school students will work in jobs that don’t exist today.
  • The biggest concern that Gen Zs voice (nearly 80 per cent) is if they will have a job when they graduate.
  • Gen Zs want to enter the professional and technical “idea economy” while the largest growth is in the service economy.
  • They will be a different kind of professional, not a 40-hour week cube worker, but freelance contractors who solves problems with a particular expertise.
  • They are wary of long-term plans. They are not planning on 30 year careers at one place.
  • Gen Zs have the personalities of workers who back their bosses, but they will look for jobs where bosses “have their backs.”
  • Flexibility is important to them. Employers worry that they are so flexible that retention may be an issue. It is on both sides actually.
  • Gen Zs will not be as loyal to companies as generations before them.  They’ve witnessed the lack of corporate loyalty when their own parents and older siblings lost their jobs during the recession.
  • They expect quick results (promotions), and will keep their resumes handy and up-to-date, online.
  • The recession will have them competing for jobs at all levels with much older adults.
  • The Internet economy, cloud tools, and crowd-sourced funding have allowed Gen Zs to become successful online entrepreneurs, from selling their original music, video, and text content to establishing startups. 
  • They will have a very hard time in accepting unethical and egoistic behaviour, unfair governance, military top-down ego-based management behaviour.
  • They are “feeling” (un-)authenticity or (un-)ethicalness and will be more tempted by truthful communication and product-service, management and behaviour.
  1. Their world vision and purpose
  • Diversity. Generation Z won’t expect a diverse workforce – they will assume it as a given. This group has grown up amidst anti-discrimination legislation and increased globalization. They readily assume wildly different personas in on-line games.

  • They have an instinctively more inclusive mindset and a better global view. Whether they choose to physically travel or connect virtually, they will see making global connections as key to doing business effectively and fulfilling life.

  • The potential of generation Z really makes a positive difference in the world. They can catalyse a whole scale rethink of the world of work and how it engages with us as individuals, our environment and our communities.

  • Mistrust in prevailing political systems. Generation Z were in their tweens or teens during the market crash of 2008. They have seen their parents lose jobs and homes, and have witnessed their older Gen Y siblings’ inability to get jobs. They have seen politics fail their families and their social circles. Generation Z is witnessing record unemployment in Europe and extreme social upheaval.

  • Surprisingly, many of them are concerned about the impact social media was having on their ability to communicate in live. It is truly an issue as their virtual presence doesn’t trigger balanced relations. They are too shy or too blunt.
  • Dealing with violence (physical, military, terror, emotional, intellectual, ideas, fear, …) is one of the biggest issues in the world for them today.
  1. Dangers, weaknesses and knowledge from the past
  • Recession, war, energy crisis, and climate change leave them in a world filled with uncertainties.
  • Gen Zs are described as too dependent on technology, and uneased in human relations.
  • Cyber crimes like bullying, identity theft, intellectual property theft are a dangerous frontier that are still not policed or regulated very well.
  • Some Gen Zs do not have access to the digital world, and will thus be “out of the future game”.
  • Socioeconomic position and ZIP code play a large part in this.
  • Gen Zs face health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles and lack of basic human education and healthy lifestyle (nutrition, sport,…).
  • Other generations must deal with Gen Z’s’ changing (or lack of) interpersonal skills that are driven by advancing technologies.
  • Those who disconnect from citizenship (the “lost generation”) will “work against”, with cynism, and will be very counter-productive for society.
  • A share of this generation was spoiled with wealth and have no motivation to develop skills, expertise, mastership. In case of downturn they will be “lost”. In emerging countries like for ex. Middle East, has no personal motivation to develop themselves, let alone competences or get jobs.
  • They could refuse a too heavy and irresponsible heritage…

8. Opportunities and possible joint constructive actions

  • Create forum between GenZ, GenY and others
  • Create systemic synergies between experts, entrepreneurs and leaders, GenZ, and education at large
  • Create a community of action with the GenZ and Y around “Vital Functions” of society, with innovations, new entrants, templates, best practices, forum, pilot projects and scalable bleuprints
  • Facilitate mentoring and reverse mentoring between generations, based on an equality relation
  • Facilitate internships,
  • Facilitate collective intelligence workshops and citizen forums around quest questions
  • Facilitate international schooling (ex. Erasmus), internships and mid-career repositioning

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s