Millennials have set a high bar in terms of tech and entrepreneurship, but Generation Z could be even more ambitious than its predecessor. The newest generation in the workforce grew up surrounded by Snapchat, YouTube, and Musical.ly — and Gen Zers probably had an iPad before they could walk.
A whopping 98 percent of Gen Zers own a smartphone, and this generation expects to get smartphones at a younger age than any other generation. Research indicates that 45 percent of Gen Zers are on their phones “almost constantly,” and about 62 percent of Gen Z and Millennials would rather leave their wallets at home instead of their phones.
But the differences go beyond tech. Young people in 2018 know how to work for what they want, know how the gig economy works, and are ready to earn their keep. A staggering 46 percent of Gen Z already freelances. And with 61 million young minds making their way toward the U.S. workforce, Generation Z is primed to make its mark.
I thought I was cool when I was able to play “Ford Simulator” on my DOS computer at the age of 8, using one of those comically large floppy disks. Well, members of Generation Z use more technology before breakfast than I did from childhood to legal drinking age.
We already have a few Gen Z workers at my company. They are more tech-savvy than Millennials, but they also have a different perspective on work. The era of the 9-to-5 shift is dead; for Gen Z, it never really existed. The same is true of 10 days of paid time off per year. Young workers want flexibility, remote work, and travel — and they want it now.
Members of Gen Z grew up with the internet (and all its misinformation), which taught them to scrutinize their sources at an early age. They know how to form their own opinions, unlike some members of past generations who grew up in small communities and echo chambers. As a result, Gen Z workers are far more open to (and informed about) colleagues of other races, religions, sexual orientations, and so on.
For my generation, “entrepreneurship” was more of a tough spelling bee word than a career option. Members of Gen Z don’t see things that way. They grew up in a world where venture capitalists and founders make the news on a daily basis. Rather than see entrepreneurship as a synonym for “jobless” — as my parents did — they see self-employment as a viable option. If they leverage their advantageous upbringing, they will undoubtedly succeed.
As these new young adults enter the workforce and disrupt industries, we “old” entrepreneurs must prepare for the fallout. Consider these five ways young people will shape the economy of the future and the opportunities for entrepreneurs that lie within:
Generation Z might be the first generation to take large-scale global issues like climate change seriously. Viral sensations on YouTube and Netflix taught young people that any message can spread like wildfire (they want to fix those, too). These global issues matter to them, and they’re being exposed to a lot more content on the subjects than Gen Y ever was.
That attitude carries over into their expectations of businesses. Gen Z feels strongly that brands should work to improve society and the environment. As a result, Gen Zers are more than happy to take their money elsewhere if companies don’t play nice.
Countless documentaries on Netflix have soured Gen Z stomachs on what constitutes acceptable dining. At this point, there are more milk options at Starbucks than we had Jelly Belly flavors. Thanks to their down-to-earth drive and environmental conscientiousness, young buyers will soon put the pressure on companies to make food a more wholesome part of living.
That could start with something like fake meat. Generation Z is less concerned about the “weird factor” than past generations. To save the world, young people are willing to reconsider their eating habits. This means alternative food companies could be on the cusp of a boom.
Generation Z grew up in a globalized market. Unlike many Millennials, like me, who weren’t exposed to other cultures until college, this generation grew up making friends of all types from around the world via social networks and massively multiplayer online games. This new wave of workers expects to work alongside people of all creeds and colors — which is proven to increase innovation.
New research found that members of Gen Z believe racial equality is the most important issue of our time. Entrepreneurs should not only pay lip service to diversity, but also embrace it as a core value — it genuinely matters to their teams and prospects.
Beyond bitcoin, blockchain represents the next wave of technology infrastructure. Cryptocurrency is still finding its feet, but I’m betting Gen Z will drive crypto adoption and innovation across all industries using the blockchain plumbing.
Blockchain companies are already popular in startup circles. Gen Z will expect these companies to ascend from their niches to become practical parts of everyday life. Leaders of blockchain businesses must anticipate the needs of their users, or they might find themselves usurped by more ambitious Gen Z founders.
Uber is no longer new. Millennials and Gen Z understand the sharing economy equally well, but Gen Z will double down on the trend. Why own a car when an autonomous vehicle can give you a ride at any moment?
Gen Z doesn’t care about ownership. Young people want experiences and freedom more than assets, and their purchasing habits reflect this. Anything that is being wasted (your car sits idle 95 percent of every day, for instance) will be optimized.
Gen Z entrepreneurs and workers have yet to experience the lows Millennials and other generations faced during the recession of the late 2000s, but they might not have to wait long. When a new recession hits, current Gen Z will be put to the test.
Will early difficulty stifle Gen Z entrepreneurship? Will they retain their sense of unity when the chips are down? My bet is that this generation is going to solve some of our world’s largest problems.