As Seen on MarketWatch! Connecting with Gen Z: The 7 Key Insights You Need to Know Now

Gen Z woman looking at laptop with MarketWatch logo in top right corner of image

I’m Thrilled to Share My Latest Feature Story for MarketWatch

In this research-driven article, I shared exactly what you need to know to connect to Gen Z now by keeping these key insights in mind:

  • The pandemic has hit Gen Z the hardest economically
  • Gen Z will redefine higher education
  • A majority of Gen Z believe in a Universal Basic Income
  • Gen Z demands brands take a stand on social issues
  • Gen Z’s financial responsibility is starting to look like the Baby Boomers
  • Leaders in healthcare are trusted by Gen Z more than those in government
  • Gen Z wants to have an impact on their world, now!

Read my full article in MarketWatch to see why these key trends matter now to leaders, parents, marketers, influencers, and neighbors in every generation. In fact, the time has never been more important to accurately understand and connect with Gen Z. This new generation is the fastest-growing generation in the workforce and the most influential generation of emerging consumers.

In leading more than 65 generational research studies—and writing the new bestseller(!) Zconomy—I have dedicated my work to separating myths from truths so leaders can unlock their generational strengths. Right now, understanding Gen Z is key to leveraging their tremendous talents, influence, perspective, and their impact for decades to come.

The COVID-19 pandemic’s profound and long-lasting effects on Gen Z

As I frequently speak about in my virtual keynotes and online executive roundtables, Gen Z has born the brunt of much economic trauma during the pandemic. This is often surprising for other generations to hear because there often is a perception that the oldest generation is the one most impacted in the workforce during the pandemic. However, our research shows it clearly is Gen Z.

In The Center for Generational Kinetics’ comprehensive cross-generational study this past summer, as noted in MarketWatch, we uncovered the following: “..almost half (45%) of Generation Z have seen their work hours decreased and over one-third (37%) are not able to work or get paid…” In fact, Gen Z suffered the highest rates of any generation in terms of decreased work hours, being furloughed, having a reduction in pay, or being moved to a job for which they were not hired.

Why did this happen? As I shared in the article, “This was due to a variety of factors from the industries in which they worked—such as hospitality and retail—to the unfortunate ‘last hired, first fired’ mantra of old. Gen Z will carry this challenging workforce scar with them as they tell us they are looking now for stability, benefits, and flexibility of work hours and style in addition to compensation.”

Gen Z is seeking a brand-new relationship with colleges and universities

News reports from across the country show that college students today are frustrated by high tuition for classes that have often transitioned to virtual. In addition, students feel like they’re missing out on the “on-campus” experience, from making new friends to sports, volunteering, and more. While universities are scrambling to adjust budgets, they also are facing the realities of students deferring enrollment or wanting to pay less, and often times increases in direct costs to provide a safe learning experience as well as lost revenue from not having students eating on campus, attending events, paying for parking, etc.

As I noted in the article about Gen Z, “we found that 40% were reconsidering their entire career path.” As access to education continues to become easier to find off-campus, colleges are working hard to find the right hybrid solution as well as map out a path to returning to classes as soon as it is safe for all stakeholders, from faculty and staff to students and the local community.

Gen Z believes in Universal Basic Income more than any other generation

Policies that include some form of universal basic income (UBI), pushed for by lawmakers and politicians such as last year’s presidential primary candidate Andrew Yang, are more mainstream among Gen Z than previous generations. While it remains to be seen how these expectations about UBI will affect politics, legislation, and more, it is important to note that Gen Z is bringing a different mindset toward UBI than previous generations.

In our recent State of Gen Z® study, 58% of Gen Z are in favor of a U.B.I. program—not only more than any other generation studied, but also the only generation where a majority believe the government should provide UBI. As I mentioned in MarketWatch, “This belief in a universal basic income has affected everything from how Gen Z views the role and responsibility of government to the idea that everyone deserves a basic income to be able to sustain themselves. The implications of this on both government responsibilities and politics in general could be very long-lasting.”

Brands are taking a stand on social causes as Gen Z demands them to

If you have turned on a television in the past year, the impact Gen Z has had on brands is tangible and global. From Nike and REI to Walmart and Procter & Gamble, the U.S.’s largest brands have made tremendous shifts in how they are connecting to social justice causes and seeking to protect the environment. Both of these social causes are incredibly important to Gen Z. The generation expects brands to not only take a stand on these issues but turn that into action and results.

Our data goes even deeper into how Gen Z reacts to brands that support social causes. As I shared in MarketWatch, “..our research revealed a rapid shift where racial equality and social justice jumped to the top spot. It’s not a coincidence that the social justice rallies and social media coverage have helped to galvanize many in the generation to make social justice their priority social cause as they emerge into adulthood.” The importance of social justice and racial equality is particularly noteworthy, as combatting climate change had been the most important social cause for Gen Z until 2020.

When it comes to financial responsibility, Gen Z start to look a lot like Baby Boomers

The research team at The Center for Generational Kinetics was the first to point out that Gen Z was shaping up to be much more fiscally prudent than previous generations were at the same age. CGK’s research has consistently shown that the impact of watching their parents struggle during the Great Recession shaped Gen Z to save money, think about and plan for retirement, seek companies that offer benefits as part of employment, create emergency accounts at a young age, and make budget-conscious decisions. And now, Gen Z is bearing the brunt of the pandemic, which is again reinforcing to them the importance of being pragmatic with their money.

As I note in the article, “Now (Gen Z has) seen COVID-19 decimate jobs, careers, savings, and small businesses. The result is that our research shows Gen Z is much more focused on saving and getting a great value for the money they spend rather than spending frivolously.”

Further, the number of apps on the market that cater to savvy Gen Zers (Mint, Acorns, Stash, Chime, etc.) is evidence that businesses who lead in this field will find much success going forward. In fact, many in Gen Z will not remember a time before they could share money with peers via the CashApp, and the youngest will only remember a time where Greenlight cards or similar were used to enable payment.

Trusting healthcare professionals—and more so than any other leader

While trust in our leaders has changed dramatically in the last few decades, one type of leader that has remained in high regard are those that work in the medical field. As mentioned in my MarketWatch op-ed, “Specifically, since March 2020, Gen Z reported having the most confidence in health care workers of all leadership types we tested (57%). Gen Z showed the least confidence in U.S. government leaders, state government leaders, and law-enforcement officials since the start of the pandemic (23%).” That is a tremendous differential and something all leaders should take note of. It also reinforces the notion that healthcare workers are viewed as very important to Gen Z both in terms of helping people and also in terms of trust and influence.

Gen Z is eager to make their mark on the world

Finally, we found that in all ways possible, Gen Z wants to have an impact on their communities and the world at large. From the way they save money and work, to find a job, to how they choose to shop, vote, and march in the physical and digital streets, Gen Z is redefining what it means to participate in shaping in our constantly changing world.

While news stories come and go, our ground-breaking, holistic research defines the most important trends leaders need to keep their eyes on. As I noted in MarketWatch, “As we led numerous studies, what stood out to us was this generation’s belief in their power and ability to create change rather than waiting for others to do it for them. This generation brings a new and needed voice to a variety of issues, and they’re willing to express their voice—from TikTok to employer reviews and holding brands accountable.”

Along with my co-author, Dr. Denise Villa, we write about the most surprising and important insights into Gen Z in our new book, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business—and What to Do About It. We are thrilled that Zconomy was a #1 New Release on Amazon and selected as a Top 10 Business Book on Check out the book or audiobook to hear all of our insights into Gen Z, as well as exactly what to do to unlock the potential of Gen Z as employees, customers, and trendsetters.

Learn Ways to Connect with Gen Z Customers and Employees

There are myriad challenges with the ongoing pandemic. In spite of it, leaders, marketers, and managers must work to ensure that their business can engage Gen Z now and emerge from this time stronger than ever. In fact, this has never been more important for employers and marketers as well as for Gen Z’s own future.

At CGK, we are constantly researching how Gen Z and all generations are thinking about spending, work, brands, family, the economy, and much more throughout this challenging time. My team and I are sharing these discoveries and strategies as online executive briefings, webinars, and virtual keynote presentations to help leaders at all levels be accurately informed with missing Gen Z insights and actions to drive results during this incredibly important time.

Contact my friendly team to learn how our custom research and generational strategies can help your team and organization lead and solve challenges across generations now.

Subscribe to Jason's Email Newsletter

You’ll receive updates on Jason’s latest discoveries and exclusive Gen Z and Millennial research