COVID-19: “The 9/11 of Generation Z”

generation v woman sitting with mask on protecting from covid19 coronavirus

Axios Recently Asked Me What the Pandemic Means for Today’s Students and Those Just Entering the Workforce

  • COVID-19 will be the clear Generation Defining Moment of Gen Z
  • The pandemic is likely to shape Gen Z’s perceptions of school, work, and government
  • CGK’s research team is studying the impact of the global crisis on each generation

Every generation has a formative moment that defines how they see and interact with the world. For the Silent Generation, it was World War II; for many Baby Boomers, it was the day President Kennedy was killed; and for Millennials, September 11th and the Great Recession of 2008 were both impactful in different ways.

There Is Much to Learn About COVID-19’s Impact on Gen Z and Each Generation

As I shared with Axios in a recent article, “COVID-19 is going to be the 9/11 of the Gen Z generation.” Yet the extent of the current crisis is unknown, especially as it is still unfolding in real-time.

As Axios pointed out, people may lose family or friends to the disease, and many have changed how they interact with others socially, such as connecting with friends and family by video or wearing a mask out in public. How all of these rapid changes to daily life affect people’s mental health is not yet fully realized (though it will likely have negative effects).

Economic Disruptions Influence How Generations Think About Money Over Their Lifetime

Extensive research at CGK before COVID-19 had shown that Gen Z is more likely to start saving for retirement earlier in life due to seeing the effects of the Great Recession on their family and community. This front-row seat to economic challenge will continue throughout the pandemic. Gen Z will see more economic fallout from the shutdown’s effect on businesses and organizations now. On the whole, Gen Z workers are disproportionately in entry-level jobs, the service industry, and other sectors that have been gravely impacted by the pandemic—and likely will be for some time to come.

The Public Sphere Is Changing Rapidly

As the virus spread around the world, governments scrambled to mitigate the worst possible outcomes. Entire sectors of the economy were shut down to reduce or limit the spread of the virus. Both federal and state governments rushed a series of legislative packages totaling trillions of dollars (in the U.S. alone) to help soften the impact.

With 30 million Americans already out of work and rising, the nation’s leaders have set up loan programs for small businesses, increased budgets for unemployment insurance, and much more. What this means to a generation coming of age is profound. As I noted to Axios, “Gen Z is now going to be able to say, ‘I remember where I was’ when they started sending out checks to everybody or when health care suddenly became free in order to get tested.” Many things that seemed impossible in February 2020 suddenly became reality in March 2020.

How Are You Responding to the Global Crisis When It Comes to Leading Different Generations?

With all the change, challenge, and uncertainty happening right now, leaders must have the most up to date research to ensure that their business can engage Gen Z, and each generation, while emerging from this storm stronger.

My team and I at The Center for Generational Kinetics are closely researching how Gen Z and all generations are thinking about work style, spending plans, brand perception, the economy, family, and much more throughout the pandemic. We are providing these insights as executive strategy briefings, interactive webinars, and virtual keynote presentations to help leaders at all levels become accurately informed with missing data and solutions to drive results at this incredibly important time.

Contact my friendly team here to learn how our research and generational discoveries can help you and your team through this time of uncertainty to emerge stronger.

Gen Z Generations Media


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