by Dr. Karling Lee
Many Malaysians are still struggling to understand the Millennials (Gen Ys) and often make sweeping statements about the young generation by labelling them as ‘soft’, unmotivated, lazy, entitled, and so on.
Forget about the Millennials (Gen Ys) if you still haven’t figured them out, leave them be, for here come the Gen Zs.
Millennials came of age during the Internet explosion, while Gen Zs were born between the mid-1990s to mid-2000s.
The arrival of Gen Z globally has been greeted with mixed feelings of apprehension, excitement, expectations, and even fear.
Who are they?
Gen Zs are autonomous and independent as they are born in an era when technology is quickly taking off.
The majority of Gen Zs have been left to take care of themselves as both parents are away working; even more unfortunate, being raised by a single parent.
Hence the strong sense of self-reliance and independence. Gen Zs are able to fend for themselves and are very capable and confident in self-management.
However, despite this sense of independence, Gen Zs thrive in collaborative and consultative environments where problems are resolved via social interactions with peers and even seniors or experts.
This leads to a strong focus on openness and transparency, an aspect that challenges the secrecy of the older, more mature boomers.
They respect the elders
As opposed to Gen Ys, Gen Zs actively seek out seniors and more experienced people to obtain their opinions, views, and thoughts prior to any key decisions.
This is evident in the way Gen Zs seek advice from parents before taking actions. This is very different from the Gen Ys who tend to listen to their friends more than parents.
Hence, it is imperative that global stakeholders from the government to private enterprises do not consider the ‘young’ generation as one and the same. They are, simply put, distinctively different.
Yet, given the collaborative nature of Gen Zs, they also value privacy and shun open, untrusted, and unsecured social media platforms.
Interestingly, they are also not afraid of voicing out against social injustice and are more globally accepting of diversity and differences.
Again, the difference is stark as compared to Gen Ys who love to post anything and everything on social media to brag about what they did and where they went.
Gen Zs, on the other hand, prefer to keep a low profile on what they do unless the achievement is extremely impressive.
They are also careful as to what they post on social media. Although there are always exceptions to the rule: Gen Zs prefer not to post photos of family as they value privacy and personal contact with family, not wishing to share everything with the entire world.
They loathe fakeness
Gen Zs dislike hypocrites and look up to and respect people who are open, forthcoming, transparent, and fair.
They are also more socially conscious and will strive for the greater societal good vs personal gains.
This again differs from Gen Ys drastically, as there are some from that group who are generally selfish and feel entitled.
Apart from the social consciousness of Gen Zs, this generation is also the first to openly stand up for minorities, such as gays, lesbians, the down-trodden, and displaced indigenous people.
This provides a challenge for political stakeholders as the ‘older’ Boomer generation tend to be more conservative in regard to such issues.
As Gen Zs appreciate diversity more, they are more likely to embrace it wholeheartedly as compared to previous generations.
On the other hand, Gen Zs are also more aware of the need for wealth accumulation. This contradicts their needs to maintain social consciousness.
They are business savvy
Researchers have found that between 46% – 62% of Gen Zs (dependent on country) prefer to be entrepreneurs and help grow the economy.
Many young Gen Zs are already involved in business operations from a very young age.
This includes their efforts on being YouTubers or selling products via various online marketplaces, such as Amazon, Lazada, Alibaba, WeChat and others.
The purchasing power of Gen Zs are, thus, going to be stronger than Gen Ys; the latter are known more for being employees rather than entrepreneurs.
Even so, younger Gen Ys also stride out as entrepreneurs as they sport some Gen Z traits in them.
The contradictory nature of Gen Zs needs attention from all global stakeholders.
It is imperative that the world starts to shift its attention to the Gen Zs because this generation is not afraid to change and improve the world; all to ensure they can enjoy a better quality of life.
Assoc. Prof. Dr. Karling Lee is breaking new ground in generational understanding at INTI International University and across Asia.
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