The frustrating part of beginning to have a “generational” discussion is setting out exactly what a generation is. For most experts that would be the period of time that it would take one group of people to be born and reach adequate maturity to reproduce.
The problem is, no one agrees on what that period of time actually is. Traditionally, a 20-year period has been assumed to constitute a generation of humans. However, in recent years, a period of 18 years has, instead, been used. To what purpose, I’m not sure. Perhaps, it’s in an effort to move generations through quickly, so that we can talk about the “next generation” sooner? At any rate, the WSJ recently issued a piece on the Gen Z population, and is claiming that that generation started in 1997. If that were the case, then each “generation” would be about 15 years in duration. Seems implausible. I’m going to adhere to the 18-year timeframe, which would make the Gen Z generation’s inception at the Year 2002. And that would make that generation poised for entry into the marketplace but, for the most part, not yet a part of the workforce. Thus, most of the information that the Journal has gleaned about Gen Z-ers has quite possibly included the tail-end of the Millennials. But, no matter, there are, of course, cross-overs between generations, where the last of the former generation actually begins to better-resememble and identify with the generation it’s closest to in the time period. That was true with the last of the Boomers, who tended to affiliate more strongly with GenX-ers and also true with younger GenX-ers who more closely resembled Millennials. It stands to reason that, since the environment and the culture dictate the particular identifiable elements of a generation, that this might be the case. So, let’s look at some of the things that the Journal has come up with as identifiable and specific to GenZ – no matter that the data might be a bit spurious. GenZ members are said to have been coming of age during such challenges to the nation as a serious recession, war, and terror threats. Hmmm – we should pause and recollect that it was the Millennial generation that experienced 9-11. And there have been wars in each of the generations, going all the way back to the “Matures,” some of whom are still in the marketplace. So, the only significant difference between this generation and earlier ones is the serious recession/financial crisis experienced by the nation between the years of 2008-2016. Because of the financial concerns, it is said that this generation’s members are more eager to get rich than previous generations, but are less interested in owning their own businesses. Quoting the Journal, “Early signs suggest that GenZ workers are more competitive and more pragmatic [aren’t those two ideas the opposite – ?] but also more anxious and reserved than millennials. I’d say that it would be difficult to know what a 16 year old was like – since that’s the age that the oldest GenZ-ers would be today. Regardless, companies are said to be reworking training so it “replicates You-Tube style videos,” as that is said to appeal to GenZ workers reared on smartphones. The upcoming generation is said to learn new information much more quickly than their predecessors. Demographers apparently see parallels between this new generation with that of the “Great Depression” generation, where the financial difficulties of the nation forever tempered the way in which that generation bought, used and sold goods and engaged in commerce, in general. Well, time will certainly tell if these “predictions” – which is what they are – remain consistent with the new generation that hits the marketplace in earnest in a couple of years. Of interest, is the reported total numbers for the millennial and GenZ generations – GenZ is seen as being about 5 million smaller than the millennials – however, by my calculations, there are still two years of births to go with this generation. Here’s to a future with GenZ-ers on board!