Who is Gen Z?

Those born in 2003 will turn 18 this year. Gen Z, which is still sometimes dismissed as smartphone zombies, has long been a generation with relevance for companies, both as customers and employees.

But who are we actually talking about? Gen Z, i.e. the generation after Generation Y, is roughly defined as people born after 1994. This generation was shaped for the first time in a place that previous generations first had to familiarize themselves with – the Internet. Gen Z lives as digital natives and thus experiences globalization from birth.
HR expert Martina Mangelsdorf (2015) describes the implications of this for the socialization of this generation: on the one hand, Gen Z is constantly confronted with crises – financial crises, environmental disasters and terrorism dominate the news. On the other hand, equality and diversity are issues that this generation is growing up with, so they are becoming increasingly self-evident.
According to IBM (2017), Generation Z has a purchasing power of 44 billion US dollars and a significant influence (93%) on family purchasing decisions. It is therefore interesting to take a closer look at the needs and interests of this generation.

Gen Z as a consumer

The meaning of consumption is changing and the “Fridays for Future” generation is driving this forward. In a study on the implications of the generation for companies, Francis and Hoefel point out that the generation sees consumption more as access than as ownership (see Netflix, car sharing and co). Consumption is also an expression of individual identity and a matter of great ethical importance (Francis, T. & Hoefel, F., 2018).
The CSR activities of companies have an important influence on the purchasing decisions of Gen Z. According to a study by Cone Communications (2017), 94% of respondents believe that companies should address critical issues. That is more than in any previous generation. The most important topics are poverty and hunger, environmental protection and human rights.

A study by Istanbul University has found that Generation Z assumes that the main motivation of companies for CSR activity is both an interest in the general public and a corporate interest. This is perceived as a win-win situation. The study also shows that a number of variables influence the generation’s intention to buy products from companies that carry out CSR projects. The CSR factor only proved to be convincing if price and quality requirements are also met (Ariker, Ç & Toksoy, A., 2017).

Gen Z knows that a green coat of paint looks interesting to them, but they won’t be taken for fools. Fridays for Future Berlin points out: “They are not as honest and green as [Unternehmen] so often present themselves to be.” (Friday for Future Berlin, 2019)
Sofia Penttila, author of the GenZ platform Voyagers, which brings business and sustainability together, makes it clear: “Gaining our support is quite simple: put the planet before profit.” (Penttila, S., 2020)

The company GEPA stands out positively: It won the CSR Award 2020 in the “Responsible supply chain management” category. The company’s fair trade standards are considered to be the strictest in the world. GEPA, a supplier of chocolate, coffee and wine, among other things, has set itself three core objectives:

Promote disadvantaged producer groups in the South
Motivating consumers in the North to change their purchasing behavior and lifestyle
Influencing and changing world trade structures through concrete alternatives, lobbying and political work
(GEPA, n.a.)

The consistent strategy pays off: The company is recommended by utopia.de and praised for its intensive engagement with criticism, among other things. In addition to the retailer’s strict fair trade criteria, the high proportion of organic products and efforts to protect the environment in the choice of packaging are striking (Utopia Team, 2018).

Finally, Francis and Hoefel (2018) point out, “Companies need to rethink how they deliver value to consumers, balance scale and mass production against personalization, and – more than ever – practice what they preach when addressing marketing issues and work ethics.”

In general, Generation Z is proving to be a very socially aware group. While 91% of respondents to the study by Cone Communications (2017) see it as the responsibility of companies to do something for people and the environment, as many as 97% believe it is the responsibility of companies to be a good employer.

So how does Gen Z itself behave on the labor market?

Prof. Dr. Antje-Britta Mörstedt, Professor of General Business Administration at the PFH Private University of Applied Sciences Göttingen, points out that the use of the Internet also plays a central role in the job search. The use of evaluation portals by companies as providers and employers is central. According to Mörstedt, the “desire for development and self-realization opportunities is an important decision criterion for young career starters when choosing a future employer” (Mörstedt, A.-B.,n.A., p.20f.). According to Teresa Bridges, important attributes when looking for a job are an environment that encourages entrepreneurial skills, offers a friendly and social working environment and allows for flexible schedules (Bridges, T.,2015).

According to Mörstedt, once a “Gen Z” employee has found their job, their private life often dominates and their ties to the company are weak compared to previous generations. In order to meet the demands of this generation, it is important to create modern equipment in the workplace. Through their activities in social networks, this generation is also used to regular feedback and expects this in their everyday work (Mörstedt,A.-B., n.A., p.21).
According to a study by author and researcher Dan Schawbel, the generation generally prefers personal communication. Another major point is that the workplace should focus less on age and more on ideas and contributions (Schawbel, D. (2014), according to: Agarwal, H. & Vaghela, P.,2018, p.5).

CoronAbi 2021 – By far the best?

After three semesters of lessons under Corona conditions, the class of 2021 is now leaving school – whether with a (technical) Abitur, intermediate school leaving certificate or secondary school leaving certificate. The application period also begins for university graduates and trainees in their final year of training. An important time for employers to win over Generation Z. The key point here is that CSR also plays a major role in the workplace: Generation Z prefers to work for an honest, trustworthy employer. (Half, R., 2015, after: Agarwal, H. & Vaghela, P.,2018, p.5).
With a focus on CSR, customer loyalty is also not far away. Win-win, then!

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