A lot of us are just getting used to working with the millennial generation, that collaborative, flexible, socially-conscious demographic that makes up the majority of the current workforce.  Their preferences have had a profound impact on commercial real estate - changing the game in terms of workplace design and culture, and fueling the growth of the real estate technology sector. In fact, 54 million of them believe that technology plays second fiddle these days.

On this edge of the millennial generation comes Generation Z: those born after 1995. This gang is just starting to enter the workforce, and their influence will begin to grow over the next decade, so it’s time to take a look at what makes them tick. For this generation, it is 100% true that they were born with a cell phone in their hand.

One of my favorite things to do is mentor younger professionals, and when you speak to them about their interests - due to the adoption of technology at such an early age - it is incredible the creativity and dreams they have for what they want to be and do in the workforce. Evolution at its best!

There are some significant differences between the Millennials and Generation Z, especially in terms of media use. Here are some examples from a study conducted last year by Vision Critical:

  • On average, Gen Z uses their smartphones 15.4 hours per week—more than any other type of device.
  • Gen Z consume 13.2 hours of TV content per week—significantly less than boomers and Gen X.
  • There has been a 41 percent increase in the use of ad-blocking software in the past 12 months.

This last figure is provocative. Generation Z is harder to reach than the people we’re used to working with. They’re actively avoiding ads, and basing more of their purchasing decisions on social media. And they use social media differently: while Facebook is still the most commonly used platform, Gen Z uses YouTube at nearly the same rate, and their use of Instagram and Snapchat are significantly higher than other demographics. At the same time, they’re not interested in Pinterest, and are big users of Vine. (If you don’t know what Vine is ….)

This seems to indicate a preference for user-generated content, and a generally more personalized experience - using their own voice to create change. They want to “co-create culture.” Gen Z is fully in charge of the media they use, and the study showed that their favorite website is YouTube, the bastion of user-generated video.  It may be that the preference for visual media can be traced back to the group’s short (8-second) attention span.

Another interesting finding was that Gen Z showed a preference for a “cool product” over a “cool experience.”  Essentially, it seems, Gen Z would prefer to be the ones who decide how to use a product. They have an entrepreneurial mindset, and are comfortable with that. They’re looking for innovative products and they respond to edgy advertising.

And they outnumber the millennials by nearly 1 billion.

Reaching this demographic – both for marketing and for recruitment - is going to require some adjustments to current strategies - and if you don’t get started figuring this out now, you’re in for a rude awakening. Here are some ways that we can reach Gen Z more effectively, from Upfront Analytics:

  • Take them seriously. Keep in mind that this generation has considerable spending power.
  • Appeal to their entrepreneurial persona. The vast majority would prefer to have their own business than work for someone else.
  • Target their favored platforms (social media) and devices (mobile).
  • Use video and other strong visuals. Be edgy, but not trashy.
  • Be global, and be positive. This generation wants to make the world a better place.

Whether you’re marketing to or recruiting Gen Z players, especially in real estate, it’s important to understand this growing demographic. In the same way we’ve worked to blend the boomer and millennial workforce (check out my blog on lessons from The Intern), we will have to do so with Gen Z. You’ll either be ahead of the game - or not.