Welcoming Gen-Z: Be Inclusive or You'll Be Irrelevant

By Jack Myers 1stFive Council Archives

On August 3, Turner, Horizon Media and MediaVillage.com will welcome 350 interns who are working this summer in New York City-based media, advertising, marketing and entertainment companies. The 4th annual 1stFive.org Summer Interns Experience is gathering the first class of Generation Z to join our community for a shared introduction to our business and to each other. Born after 1995, Gen-Z is the first to have grown up in a world in which the Internet and mobile devices were always present. They're our first window -- our prism -- into future generations that will be born into a world with technological innovation beyond our conception: driverless cars, pilotless airplanes, ever-present media, the Internet of Things, robotics, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, Nintendo Go on steroids. This generation has grown up in a time of unprecedented access to information and global connectivity, but they have also grown up in a world of upheaval and constant disruption. From the September 11th terror attacks to the real estate bubble burst and subsequent recession; from the incessant attacks on Hillary Clinton they were born into to the radicalizing triumph of Donald Trump, tumultuous events have been the backdrop of their lives so far. Chaos is the norm. Change is simply a reality.

Based on my conversations and interviews with hundreds of young people and their parents over the past decade, a study I commissioned among more than 1,000 young men and women, and three books I authored about Gen-Z and young Millennials, I can confidently report that Gen-Z and Millennials are dramatically different generations. Millennials are the offspring and inheritors of many of the least appealing qualities of Boomers, Gen-X and Gen-Y, while Gen-Z represents a completely new entry into the genetic pool, bred as much on the Internet and media as they have been by their parents – and in many cases even more so. They're a small generation but an exceptional one from which we can learn a great deal. Those who make the investment to engage with their new Gen-Z team members will find they offer uniquely valuable insights and organizational value. Those who assume they are Millennials on steroids will miss an opportunity to be witness to a generation who will be our guides and leaders through a tumultuous period that will make the last two decades seem to have passed in slow motion.

They have seen the old systems fail and see no reason to keep them around. After all, in their lifetime technology continually advances so quickly that phones are considered outdated within a year. Gen-Z does not believe in perpetuating anything that isn't working. They are not destructive, simply disruptive. They believe themselves to be both responsible for and capable of manufacturing their own happiness and success. In order to do that, they have no qualms about breaking down long-standing institutions and transgressing traditional boundaries, such as gender, which they view as artificial and outmoded.

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