Don’t believe the media hype about Gen Z

small business
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small business

Do you know that Gen Z employees expect “open communications and diversity” from their employers? Yup, they do, according to a recent survey. They also desire “meaningful work.” Unfortunately, many of them are feeling “disconnected.” So disconnected, apparently, that 80 percent of them are napping on the job. Hey, who can blame them, it was a late night last night, am I right? 

Property management giant Coldwell Banker wants us to know that Gen Zers would take a pay cut to move to a cheaper part of the U.S. Gen Z investors are apparently shifting their focus from “meme-stocks” to the “metaverse,” so watch out Wall Street.

You’d think that with all this savvy and workplace knowledge, this generation would be crushing it. But, unfortunately, another report finds that almost half of Gen Zers are living paycheck to paycheck. But don’t worry, they’re still “making their mark” as entrepreneurs, according to a new report from Microsoft. Oh, and just so you know, their most popular social media site is YouTube, not TikTok, and thank God for that information.

The media love Gen Z. It seems not a day goes by without a survey, a poll, a report or an analysis telling us what we need to know about this generation. Why? It’s not hard to understand. People love youth, and Gen Zers, who were born after 1995 (which means the oldest of them are in their late 20s) are the epitome of cool, sexy, trendy and beautiful. You know, everything the rest of us are not. Societies since the time of Cleopatra have cherished the young, the hip and the attractive. And that’s what Gen Z is, for now.

We want to know more about them so we can be more like them, despite that most of us are old and boring and not very attractive at all. It makes sense for the media to leverage this generation to sell their products.

But the fact is that most small businesses don’t pay attention to Gen Z. They’re not getting caught up in the media’s relentless pursuit of clicks. Sure, if your company is selling products to this generation, then pay attention. But if not, then don’t, because most Gen Zers are still children. Very few of them are business owners, despite what Microsoft wants us to believe. (The majority of small business owners in this country are over 50, according to the Small Business Administration.)

A relatively small percentage of Gen Zers are in the corporate world, and most of them have just started in the past few years. They have little experience. Their minds aren’t fully formed. They’ve never seriously worked for a company. They don’t understand how to read a P&L or why it’s important to generate a profit so that a business can continue to grow and provide for its employees and communities. They’re just figuring out how to run their own lives. They want “meaningful work”? They want “open communications”? Hey, don’t we all. But a job is a job, and sometimes it’s not meaningful, open or even fun. It’s how you earn a paycheck so that you can pay for the things that are meaningful for you. Ask anyone who’s been in the workforce for 10 years and they’ll tell you that.

As a business owner, I would prefer not to employ Gen Zers. I don’t have the time to deal with them because my resources are limited. I realize that sometime in the next decade they’ll be a significant part of the workforce. But give me a Millennial any day. That generation – who were born before 1995 and after 1981 – are now in their 30s and 40s. I like this generation of workers. They’ve been employed for a while. Which means by now most of them have suffered through the lies, disappointments, frustrations, long hours, under appreciation and the unfairness of life in the business world.

They’ve lost jobs, lost money, lost patience and, yes, they’ve lost a lot of hair. They have learned by now that hard work really does pay off and showing up to work really does matter. They are more sympathetic to their managers and business owners because they are now managers and business owners themselves. They’re old enough to get it. Like the generation before them, Gen Z will one day be all of this.

At some point in the future – probably in five or 10 years – Gen Zers will be in decisionmaking roles. They will have responsibilities, families, mortgages, insurance and car payments that tie them to a workplace. They will offer opinions and suggestions based on their experience, instead of something they read on Buzzfeed. They will be heavier, beaten down and with less hair. Like me. Welcome to life.

But for now, let’s ignore all the media hype about Gen Z.

Gene Marks is founder of The Marks Group, a small-business consulting firm. He frequently appears on CNBC, Fox Business and MSNBC.

Tags gen z Gen-Zers Millennials small businesses
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