The coronavirus chronicles: How millennials and Gen-Z differ

Part 1

HOW time flies! During the prepandemic days three years ago, we were all fascinated with millennials—their number, their buying power and their attitude.

Now that things are slowly opening up, we have come to realize that the oldest millennials have turned 40, an age at the boundary of youth. During the past few years, Generation Z has quietly grown up—the oldest is now between 21 and 22 years of age, and are graduating from college, becoming the hot new kids in town.

While there is that tendency to lump these groups of young people together, they are actually very different from each other.

In an Inc.com article, 10 Ways to Understand the Difference Between Gen-Y and Gen-Z, Phillip Kane, CEO and Managing Partner of Grace Ocean, shares with us remarkably different attitude between these two groups. And what this could possible mean for your business.

To better understand them, Kane turned to YPulse and then a host of business professionals for help. Knowing the differences, he says, “will help those who hire them, lead them, and sell to them to make farther better decisions.” And may we add, forge better relations with family and friends. He starts by letting us to get to know the two groups a little bit better.

Millennials, according to YPulse, were born between 1982 and 2000. As mentioned earlier, the oldest of this group have just turned 40.  There are some 88 million of them in the United States and said to have a spending power of US$30.2 billion.

This generation, Kane says, “witnessed the tech explosion, which included the commercialization of the internet and the mobile phone, the introduction of the laptop and the iPod, and the launch of social media.”

They also “helped elect our first African American president, witnessed Columbine and Sandy Hook, and ran headlong into economic and health crises as they planned for life’s most important events.”  Think of dreams put on the back burner, weddings postponed.

Gen-Z, on the other hand were born between 2001 and 2019. There are 77.9 million Gen-Z’s with a combined spending power of 10.7 billion—a figure that will grow as they mature.

This generation “cannot remember a time before the internet or social media and has had their childhood interrupted by a market crash, racial unrest, and a global pandemic.”

Given the dramatically different backdrops in which these generations grew up and matured, such “have impacted who they are and have contributed to the clear distinctions that exist between them.” Here are 10 from Kane.

1. Millennials were raised in a boom. Z’s in a bust.

Born during the Reagan and Clinton years, times were good when millennials were growing up. They knew a world of prosperity until the significant downturns associated with the crash of 2008, and later Covid-19.

Z’s, on the other hand, have grown up “watching their parents endure the hardships of both the economic collapse of 2008, and the crippling financial impact of a global pandemic.”

As a result of these experiences, “the younger generation is far more debt-adverse and budget-minded than their Millennial counterparts. Z’s start planning for life and their careers earlier on average, and they skew far more heavily toward an interest in entrepreneurship than Millennials do.”

Millennials live to work, while Z’s, who have likely watched their parents tossed out of jobs, do not.

“Gen-Z is more comfortable with work boundaries,” Lauren Johnson, co-founder of start-up BarryLemon sums it up. “At a young age, they understand the reality of corporate life. And to compensate, they set boundaries. Over time, they will humanize corporate companies.”

2. Both generations are stressed out, but Gen-Z is far more anxious.

YPulse says that, “eighty four percent of Generation-Z’s are anxious about the future, compared with 72 percent among Millennials.”

With that, “they are more open and self-aware than their Millennial counterparts,” says Kane. “By their own admission, Gen-Z’s are anxiety-ridden, lost, moody, social, and self-involved.”

More than any other generation, “they believe that mental health should be openly discussed in the workplace. Zs want and value mental health benefits at work, and to a greater extent than Millennials, will leave to find them.”

“Gen-Z is more comfortable sharing information about their mental health than any other previous generation,” says GiGi Robinson, a Gen-Z chronic illness and mental health advocate. “They will talk about the need for mental health days, therapy, or even medication in ways that others would have been ashamed to.”

3. Millennials are diverse,  but for Z’s, diversity is a cause.

In the US, Z’s are the first generation to hit 50 percent identifying themselves as BIPOC or Black, Indigenous, and People of Color.

They are more diverse than any generation before them. With Millennials it’s at 45 percent, Boomers at 28 percent, and the Silent Generation at 20 percent.

Of course, Filipinos, who are among the most hospitable of people, are very open and have embraced diversity even before it became fashionable.

But it is Gen-Z’s elevating it to a cause that makes all the difference. They are not only more diverse than those before them, they are “far more passionate about diversity. Racism is the No. 1 cause among this generation.”

Mark Beal, assistant professor of professional practice, communication at Rutgers University, and author of three books on Gen-Z, says that in his national survey on Gen-Z, “nearly 35 percent prioritize a corporate culture of diversity and inclusion as the top-ranked quality they are seeking in an employer, ahead of competitive salary and benefits, which may be more important to Millennials.”

4. Gen-Z is challenging definitions of sexuality in the ways.

Millennials have not With the YPulse finding that Generation Z is five more times to (27 percent) to identify as LGBTQ+ as the general population, Kane says that “for Generation Z, sexuality and gender is a more fluid concept.” It is also one they are willing to discuss with their elder counterparts—even at work.

Kathy Sheehan, SVP at cultural strategy and business intelligence firm Cassandra, cites a Cassandra Report survey saying, “Gen-Z’s are much more likely to consider gender lines blurred today—about 18 percent of Zs self-report as bisexual, more than any other generation.”

While “gay and trans rights are issues that both groups care strongly about, it is a cause that Gen-Z is far more likely to speak about.”

5. Both want to make a difference, but Gen-Z thinks their generation needs to speak up!

It is Gen-Z’s desire to speak up on causes they feel passionate about that sets them apart.

A recent YPulse study found that when asked who has a responsibility for speaking out on important issues, themselves or brands, 47 of Millennials said they should speak out, while 59 percent of Gen-Z respondents thought they should speak out.

The expectation among this youngest generation is higher than ever that injustices, slights, and wrongdoings should be called, made public, and acted on.

We will continue to discuss the five other differences in the next column.

PR Matters is a roundtable column by members of the local chapter of the United Kingdom-based International Public Relations Association (Ipra), the world’s premier association for senior professionals around the world. Millie Dizon, the senior vice president for Marketing and Communications of SM, is the former local chairman.

We are devoting a special column each month to answer the reader’s questions about public relations. Please send your comments and questions to askipraphil@gmail.com.

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