Local businesses leaders learn more about Generation Z

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

David, left, and Jonah Stillman, right, speak during the Make Way for Gen Z luncheon, Friday, Nov. 15, 2019, at Embassy Suites. (Kyle Phillips / The Transcript)

It's time for businesses to better understand the tendencies of Generation Z, David and Jonah Stillman argue.

David and Jonah, father/son generations experts and co-founders of consulting firm Gen Z Guru, spoke to business leaders Friday at Embassy Suites about some of the tendencies of Generation Z and what they are looking for as they enter the workforce. Members of Generation Z, which the father/son duo defined as people born between 1995-2012, bring new behaviors and characteristics as they begin to launch their careers, and the Stillmans argue businesses need to be prepared for the changes.

David, the father, said the first step is for business leaders to learn the differences between Millennials and Generation Z. David defined Millennials as people born between 1980-1994.

“One thing that some people don't know is we have a whole new generation after Millennials,” David said. “Some people assume all people under 30 are the same, and that is not the case. There are some huge differences between Millennials and Generation Z. Millennials and Gen Z'ers see the world different, and we need to understand why they see the world the way they do. It's unfortunate how few leaders in the business world have Generation Z on their radar.”

One big difference, David argues, is the way members of both generations were raised and the state of the economy when they were born.

“Millennials were told growing up that they can be whatever they want to be. They were told they could be an astronaut or even the next President,” David said. “Generation Z was told that it's a tough world out there, and that made them more realistic and less optimistic about the world.”

Son Jonah said this has put his generation into what he calls “survival mode.” He argues Generation Z is more independent, less collaborative and this has impacted the way they envision their careers.

“For my generation, it's all about surviving and standing out amongst our peers. And this has made my generation the most competitive generation since the Baby Boomers,” Jonah said.

Because of these differences, David argues businesses much change how they market to potential employees in both generations. He said studies have shown that millennials are more likely to value finding meaning and purpose in their respective career options, while Generation Z is more focused on the basics, such as salary and benefits.

Both generations also have differences in how they should be managed by their employers, Jonah said. Generation Z typically prefers to have instantaneous and continuous feedback, while millennials may be more nervous about what they perceive as confrontation from their employers.

“The mindset has changed with Generation Z. Instead of thinking, 'wow, I'm lucky to have this job', they are telling their employers, 'you are lucky to have me,'” David said.

Several businesses from across Norman, Moore and Oklahoma City attended the luncheon to learn more about Generation Z. Paula Hanger, instructional coach for Moore Norman Technology Center, said she believes businesses across the country should do more to learn about this generation.

“If we don't do more to connect with Generation Z, we will lose them,” Hanger said. “We have to find new ways to communicate with them to find out what they are looking and what we can do to help them.”

Greg Miles, director of Oklahoma City Community College Capitol Hill Center, said he attended the luncheon to learn different ways of connecting with Generation Z students on campus and potential students in the future.

“This gave us a lot of insight on figuring out how to connect with Generation Z students and how we can best serve them through understanding who they are, what they want and how they think,” Miles said.

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