Vlogger, social media guru, branding expert – modern industries are changing, people are more diverse than ever, and companies are constantly trying to keep up with a new world full of new career and business opportunities.
With millennials entering the work force in bulk and Generation-Z well on its way to adulthood, EY is set to launch Generate 2018 – a student event packed with insights and surprises, demonstrating how technology is dramatically impacting our lives.
To get a better idea of the differences between generations, as well as what to look out for in the future, Lovin Malta spoke to Marcie Merriman, a Gen-Z expert with a background in cultural anthropology and brand strategy, ahead of the massive conference.
Renowned for her ability to drive business innovation and her background in multiple industries, she highlighted some of the key reasons why businesses need to start paying attention to what makes Gen-Z and millennials tick, as well as what young up-and-comers need to look out for when looking for a job.
Pictured: Marcie Merriman
1. “Gen-Z are aware there are winners and losers in life, and they are competing hard”
Unlike millennials – generally considered to be people born between the early 1980s until the late 1990s/early 2000s – the younger Generation-Z members understand the accessibility of the modern world, know that they have to compete hard to get what they want, and are ready to get out there to achieve their goals.
“With millennials, everyone got a blue ribbon, no matter how they did,” said Ms Merriman. They just need to be directed and given constructive criticism, and they’ll be off.
2. And members of Generation-Z are pretty similar around the world
Members of Gen-Z grew up on the internet and social media. They are highly proficient in it – and it has affected the way their social skills have developed.
“You’ve got boys and girls playing video games with players from around the world, in real time,” said Ms Merriman. “Millennials were more sheltered, and they didn’t have that opportunity to connect. Their parents were more guarded as they raised them, especially considering what happened during their growth, such as 9/11 and the global recession. Gen-Z didn’t have that, their parents couldn’t shelter them since they had the internet in their hands, so parents instead held more open discussions with them. That created natural differences between Gen-Z and millennials”
3. They are also thrive when given direct orders, and require honesty in their feedback
“Members of Gen-Z want people who are going to tell them what’s good, what’s not working, and where they can improve,” said Ms. Merriman. “But this is also producing massive anxiety and creating a lot of pressure, where members of Gen-Z feel like they can always do better and aren’t doing enough. Generally, the more affluent the family is, the higher the pressure is as well.”
4. That said, don’t read too much into labels
“People use labels in different ways,” she said,” and generations are really born from change. People within a generation are not all the same, there’s a lot of diversity within them, but it does give us a framework to see societal changes.”
5. If you want to know the future, watch socio-cultural trends
What are people looking at, what are people interested in in the culture? Knowing what emerging cultural trends are can practically tell you the future.
“For example, Gen-Z is so used to having technology at their fingertips, getting food delivered on demand, getting clothes sent to their door – they’ve never really had to go to the store. What does this mean as they continue to age? If they are not willing to go out, how can we use technology to enable what they want?” Ms Merriman asked.
6. “My biggest concern is that companies are missing Gen-Z”
Ms Merriman, who has worked with multiple companies in different industries for decades, pointed to one major fear she had for companies going forward.
“The majority of companies I am working with are focused on millennials – and what they are missing is this cultural shift coming with Gen-Z: the different attitudes, beliefs, values. By missing out on that, they are not preparing their organisation to handle the change or maximise on it, to learn where the opportunities lie,” she said.
“If a company is using a system today that is designed for millennials, that company is already behind. Whatever Gen-Z thinks is cool, the rest of us will eventually adopt it. Look at where they are at now to get ahead of the curve and serve your customers better,” she said.
7. Do not overlook voice and visual contact
“Voice is where it’s at,” noted Ms Merriman, in reference to any communication using voice instead of text. “It’s predicted that by 2020, half of all searches will happen by voice – and I think it’ll happen sooner. People speak four times as fast as they type, so you can get your information faster,” she pointed out.
“Facetime, Youtube – these are the thing that magnetise Gen-Z – they are less into the static images and more into the moving in real-time. We need to think what the implications are for this in the workplace, and realise they are going to push the rest of us in that direction,” she said.
8. Political changes are a reflection of changes in society
Political changes show where a society is heading, and should be taken note off by companies.
“In the US for example, we are getting more extreme – and because people’s attitudes are more easily validated because of the connection they can find with anyone in the world who agrees with them – and this makes them feel more confident in raising their voice. One’s community has extended to anyone in the world who has the same views as me,” she said.
9. Personal branding is the way to go – whether you are a person or a company
Branding has become a core way of communicating what you are all about, without using as many words. A good personal brand is worth more than any number of adverts.
“Showing what makes something different, be it a shampoo bottle, a clothes store, or a person, is important because it shows what makes them special, and communicate your values,” Ms Merriman said.
10. There will be a freelance, gig economy in the future
The Uberisation of society is well on its way, and we can expect more freelance, part-time, precarious jobs to start appearing. You might already work through a couple of them via apps on your smartphone.
11. A business’ biggest mistake is to misunderstand and miscommunicate with the consumer
It’s essential that a brand notice the little things that make a difference to consumer, and maximise on that. There’s no point in sending messages to your client base that aren’t connected and communicating.
12. Industry-hopping will soon become totally normal
As someone who has worked in multiple industries, Ms Merriman knows the importance of having experience in different fields – it only adds value to your company.
“Honestly, I think it is critical for businesses to stay ahead,” said Ms Merriman. “There’s a lot of talk about diversity, and a lot of that defaults to physical diversity – which is important – but I think diversity of experience, cognitive thinking, and approaching things in different ways is really important to continuing blazing the path of innovation. If you’ve only ever worked in one industry, in one capacity, you don’t really know what’s out there. Even now, I’m always wondering what I know, because there’s so many things you can learn and apply in different areas.”
13. Always keep an open mind
“It may feel counterintuitive to say ‘don’t worry about labels’ while talking about Gen-Z and millennials, but we need to use these terms just as frameworks, and to see things differently,” she said. “But we should not put too much into or over-rely on the labels and redefine the characteristics of everyone within the group, and instead figure out how to use the information to make ourselves better.”