How to Communicate and Engage with the Generation Z Work-Force – Jason Dorsey, Zconomy

Generation Z is the fastest-growing generation of employees, and leaders around the nation are continually looking for ways to reach them. On today’s show, we welcome back Jason Dorsey, president and lead generational researcher at the Center For Generational Kinetics. He’s also a speaker and author. He joins us to discuss his new book released in September, “Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business-and What to Do About It.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Jason Dorsey, welcome back to the show. We are so happy to have you and congratulations on this incredible new book, “Zconomy.” For everyone that’s watching us today, run do not walk to get this book. It’s incredible. It’s a must-read. If you’re in business or if you want to be in business, you’ve got to get the book. So let’s talk about it right now, Jason. Welcome back to the show.

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, thanks for having me back. Fired up, fired up about the book and just everything you’re doing to help bridge generations. So, thank you for that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great. Great. So you and your team at CGK did a lot of research that was revealed in the latest book, Zconomy. And of course, that’s how Gen Z will change the future of business and what to do about it. So talk to us about that.

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, I mean, what we discovered early on is that there was a perception that Gen Z was millennials 2.0, just an extension of millennials and just keep doing what we’re all doing. And what we found out through our research is that was completely false. Brands are having huge problems with this new generation, employers are having huge problems, and so we wanted to figure out what was really going on.

Jason Dorsey:
We’ve now led more than 65 generational studies in the US and around the world to separate myth from truth. And what we found with Gen Z, and we’ve put a lot of this in the book, is that Gen Z is definitely not millennials 2.0. In fact, in the book we share, they may leapfrog millennials in the workplace for a bunch of reasons. They’re different buyers. So if you want to market and sell to them, you have to have a different approach about what works with them, how they build trust and loyalty. But what we found is they’re now the number one driver of consumer trends. So no matter who you sell to now, if you want to stay in business, you got to understand and start to win Gen Z, who’s already 24 years old.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh my gosh. So what are some of the emerging trends?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, the biggest thing we found with Gen Z that was shocking, is that Gen Z is very frugal with their money. And for any Gen Z parents on here, they’ll know what I’m talking about. So Gen Z for our purposes here, we’re looking at ages 13 to 24. And what we found with this demographic is they’re already saving money. 12% of them are already saving for retirement before they were 22. They get money for their birthday, they take their money, they put it away and they go back to mom or dad and say, “Hey, can I have some money?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. I have a 20-year-old and a 19-year-old, they’re both at college. And that is so true. I’ll send them some money and just weeks later, I’ll say, “Hey, do you need money?” Like, “No, no, I’m good. I have money.” I’m like, “I sent you $100 two weeks ago, you still have money?” It’s crazy to me.

Jason Dorsey:
It does, except that they came up through the great recession. Remember they were young enough to be impacted by it and old enough to understand it and change a lot of their views. So they hit them early at a sweet spot where it impacted saving. They expect to get discounts on everything, get a good deal. They want to know about utility. They want to know about warranties. I mean, it’s a very different generation than millennials.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Jason Dorsey:
But we also saw, as this moves forward, when Gen Z is looking for jobs, and I know we have a lot of employers on here, they’re looking for stability in an employer. That’s new. You didn’t think young people wanted to know if you’re going to be stable. They’re looking for benefits. That’s totally new. And they think they should get paid every day, because as the examples in the book, there’s technology that make that happen. They’re very different. It’s just wild, but so much fun to work on the book and then to see obviously the awesome reviews and response.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
I bet, I bet. Now you’re in and around this stuff all the time. Are there any findings that surprised you?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, I would say the biggest finding, that as we sort of dug into this, we created something called generational context, which is comparing one generation to the other so you can see similarities and differences. And on paper, after 65 studies, when you look at Gen Z, Gen Z is most similar to the Baby Boomer generation.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Interesting.

Jason Dorsey:
In fact, we call them a throwback generation because of how they view money, because of how they view work ethic, how they’re thinking about and planning for the future. I mean, they’re very different than that typical 19 year old that people might have in their mind. And I think that’s really surprising and basically says, “Hey, this is a huge opportunity.” And the idea that they could leapfrog millennials in the workplace, which we’re already starting to see, very shocking, and what we saw from our clients because they send us all their data, is Gen Z retention prior to COVID-19 was higher than millennial retention.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Jason Dorsey:
It should be the opposite. So I actually am very optimistic about Gen Z and what they’re bringing for anybody who adapts. I think they’re going to be massive.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. What do leaders specifically need to know about Gen Z?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, absolutely. So the first thing is that Gen Z is older than most people think. People think of Gen Z and they think 13 year olds. The oldest are already 24. Fastest growing generation on a percentage basis in the workforce, number one driver of consumer trends. So you can’t ignore them. They’re here and you don’t want to end up in the trap of millennials where people pivoted too late and many of them went out of business. So you want to get this on the front end.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Jason Dorsey:
In terms of true leadership, in terms of leading that team, if you will, what we find the number one thing that Gen Z wants is honesty and candor and communication, which I think is interesting. They didn’t want strength and resilience, motivate me, take them out. And that didn’t work for them. Honesty and candor, they wanted access to more information because they’re entering the workforce later than other generations.

Jason Dorsey:
They also want to know that they have more frequent communication. Not face-to-face, not zoom, not that. It could be just a text message just to know that you know that they exist, particularly if you’re working remotely. And lastly, I think leaders need to know is that Gen Z very strongly is looking for a company purpose or mission, and not just the fake one on a poster in your office that nobody ever looks at our believes, but something that they can really get fired up and know that you’re working towards.

Jason Dorsey:
I will share with you, we’ve been doing our State of Gen Z Study now. This is going into our fifth year, and we always studied their values and their priorities. What missions, social causes are most important to you, most motivating to get you to work for a company or buy from a brand? And for the last four years, the top thing that we’ve seen is climate change or climate crisis. But in this year study, which we just completed, we release it next month, the number one thing is social justice. So we’re really seeing the generations start to evolve, start to emerge as they get older and reshuffle some of their priorities, which is very important for leaders to know.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Very interesting. That’s that’s some pretty good stuff. So what other areas do you think that business leaders are missing the mark on when communicating with Gen Z?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah. In terms of communication, I think understanding their platform and their priorities is very important. From a platform standpoint, you and I joke about this a lot of times on your show, but the most important thing to Gen Z is social media. The key is this, Gen Z does not remember a time before social media.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Jason Dorsey:
It is simply media to them. It’s all they’ve ever known.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay, right.

Jason Dorsey:
It’s their most trusted resource and it’s why they trust influencers like you. Interestingly, our research shows they trust influencers more than they trust academics, PhDs, doctors, or people from big organizations.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Jason Dorsey:
So if you want to communicate, you’ve got to know what they’re looking for.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Jason Dorsey:
The second thing we found is it’s got to all be through mobile.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Jason Dorsey:
Gen Z does not remember a time before smartphones. So it doesn’t matter how beautiful your website looks on a laptop. Gen Z does not care because they’re not going to use a laptop. So everything truly has to be, not just mobile first. People say, “Oh, it’s got to be mobile first.” That’s bunk. It’s got to be mobile only.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Wow.

Jason Dorsey:
If I have to start it, like a job application, on a mobile device but finish on a laptop, you’ve already lost me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Is this the reasons that the screens keep getting bigger on phones, because it’s really just becoming the replacement for the tablet and the laptop?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah. It’s that single device that they’re using. But what you’re also seeing, and this gets into our bigger generational work, older generations want to use those phones more too. And so obviously screen size and font size and these sorts of things matter.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure, sure.

Jason Dorsey:
Now I will share that the video element of smartphone and social media is the real exciting part for us, because what we find is Gen Z most trusts videos, the place where they go for information is YouTube, not Wikipedia or something. It’s just a really interesting take of what they value and how they get there. So people all across businesses want to understand them. If you see how Gen Z gets information and what they trust, then you can do the same thing and drive better results.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay, okay. What about recruitment? How does this differ from other generations? I mean, how does this generation differ from other generations when we’re trying to recruit these people?

Jason Dorsey:
Sure. As you know, there’s a whole section in the book about that, and there’s a big, big shift. Historically, the way that you would generally recruit is you post on whichever job boards you want, we can list off a whole bunch of names here. You put that you have a job opening. People search around. They try to find the one that fits them. They fill out the application and so forth. Gen Z doesn’t do that. In fact, what’s interesting is even things like ratings and reviews, which are important to them, are less important than what their friends, family, and others say.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
So the key thing on recruiting is you need to have videos of people that look like them talking about what it’s really like to work at that company so they can see themselves there. The second, and this is a huge one in the book, is they need to be able to apply on a mobile device, and most importantly, save as they go. If they can’t save as they go, they won’t finish the application. And if they don’t finish it, and then you do it on a mobile device but they saved it, you can email or text them and say, “Hey, Jim, I saw that you started your application. We’d love to see if you’re a great fit. We think you might be. Here’s a link, please finish the application.” And what you’ll see as many cases, applications that go through will increase 40, 50, 60% just by treating it like an abandoned cart on a shopping site.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow. Very interesting.

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah. Super cool. And then the onboarding piece is where I think there’s a huge opportunity for most businesses. One of the companies in the book is called Enborder, they do onboarding by text message. So you complete your entire onboarding process by text message, which is going to be completely normal, and it’s all the generation knows. And I think this is the key, and I know you’ve heard me say this, but this is so important. People say all the time, “Oh, Gen Z represents change. Do we really need to adapt?” No, they don’t. This is all Gen Z has ever known.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
None of this is change to them. My daughter is nine years old right now. She’s on Google Classroom and she just made a slide presentation in English and Spanish with animation, uploaded it, turned it in, recorded a video and ask the teacher what she thought.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And she’s nine years old?

Jason Dorsey:
And she’s nine.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Unbelievable. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. What are some of the other takeaways that you’d like the readers to leave with?

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, I think one of the key thing we talk about in the book is parenting and the role and importance of parenting. And it helps to explain so much how we see these generational swings from one side to the other. Another thing that we talk about a lot in the book is technology. And one of my most famous quotes that we really expand on in Zconomy is that technology is only new if you remember it the way it was before.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Interesting.

Jason Dorsey:
I think that’s important.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Jason Dorsey:
So often as business leaders, we try to sell in the way that we like to buy, and that doesn’t work with the generation that communicates, shops and buys differently. Same when it comes to motivation and retention. But we also found when we look at Gen Z, as Gen Z emerges, what we found is that Gen Z is over-indexing for influencing older generations. This isn’t just about the 22 or 23 or 24 year old. It’s about them influencing every other generation because of how they use social media. In fact, they are so good at misinformation and disinformation on social media, because it’s all they’ve ever known. And we’ve seen that play out, obviously, in a lot of politics recently. So the generation is coming of age, and this is exactly the right time to adapt to them because they’re old enough to have enough data to know what works. If you wait another five years, you’re going to miss them in the same way many people lost millennials.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right, right. What kind of an impact has COVID had in all of this? It seems as though… I was purchasing something from my phone and I’m like, “Wow, I’m buying this whole product,” it was a big ticket item, from my phone. And my 19 year old daughter was like, “Wow, you’re, you’re really getting excited about that, dad? What is the big deal about this?” Right? I’m like, “I’m doing it all from my phone,” happened to be a big screen TV. And she’s like, “Yeah.” That’s how she would buy it. Right?

Jason Dorsey:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But of course I’m doing it because of COVID. Do you think that the impact with COVID has put a lot of people into this mobility situation that says, “Look, we can just hit our phones and get cars delivered, big screen TVs, washer, dryers, Chinese food, whatever it is that you want right there on your phone?”

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, absolutely. So what COVID has done is it served as a forcing function to change expectations.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Jason Dorsey:
People who didn’t want to do online banking, like my dad, now go, “Why did I ever go to a branch?”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
So you could argue that it’s accelerated things that were already on trend, and we can all agree with that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Jason Dorsey:
What I think is lost in that is it’s also decelerated certain things, and this is really interesting. People are now having dinner together. They’re starting gardens at home, they’re baking bread. So as much as it’s accelerated all these things, there are certain things that it’s certainly slowed down and caused a change. So what we’re seeing with Gen Z and COVID that specifically in the book, and I think really important for everyone here, we believe that the 18 to 25, 24 year old members of Gen Z, they’re going to have the most negative repercussions longterm from COVID because right when they should have been really moving into the workforce, moving through college, university, whatever, that sort of adulthood, we’re seeing that they’re the ones who are losing their jobs. They’re having their salaries cut back. They’re not having the college experience. They’re not building a professional network. You can go on and on and on.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
They’re really going to struggle. And we predict there’ll be at least five years of diminished earnings ahead for them just like millennials who crashed in the great recession. Here’s the twist. The twist is that the younger members of Gen Z, we believe might actually turn this into an asset. And what do I mean by that? They’re learning how to use different technology for school, for collaboration, for gaming, for entertainment. And so they’re adapting to all these new skills at a very young age so it’s totally normal. But also they get the benefit of having the most runway to learn from the older part of the generation.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
But they’re not going to pick a college major that doesn’t have a job anymore because that industry is gone.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, yeah. That’s true.

Jason Dorsey:
And so we actually think COVID could split the generation in a sense between those who end up on the positive end of this long-term and those who end up really struggle through it. Now, obviously it’s all negative to everybody so don’t read the wrong thing into that, but it is having a very different impact. In fact, people say all the time, I hear leaders say this all the time, “We’re all in this together.” And what we’ve proved our research is that’s not true. Yes, we’re going through this at the same time, but our experiences vary dramatically by generation.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right, right. Exactly. You’ve got here in the book, you talk about a young lady, Isabella, who wakes up on Monday morning and it’s amazing because you point out that this young lady never leaves her screen. Talk to me a little bit about that for our viewers.

Jason Dorsey:
Sure. We have lots of examples of that. So Isabella would be somebody who woke up, was woken up by her phone. On her phone had already had whatever jobs or tasks she was going to do that day because she’s in the gig economy so she’s doing different things. She plans her schedule around that. She changes her classes. She orders her food. She can order her clothes. She basically can do every single aspect of her life in the first 15, 20, 30 minutes of the day on her phone while she’s still in her pajamas.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Jason Dorsey:
And then the day will adapt as she does. And I think this is really cool. So all of these technologies that people rely on now, particularly Gen Z, they’re all constantly learning. And because they’re constantly learning, it’s saying, “Hey Isabella, here’s the job you may want. Oh, this job changed. But this one’s better because it’s closer to you.” Or, “Hey, we know you have this savings goal. Here’s a way to get there faster. Or we know you want to meet this type of person. Here’s somebody we recommend.” So not only is she doing everything through the screen, but even recommendations coming to her that are changing her pathway through the day are still driven through technology based on that small device. And that’s not just the future. Let’s just be clear. That’s now. That’s right now today.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. It’s funny too, because as a parent, you’re constantly telling your kids, will you get your face out of that screen? Will you get away from the phone? Just take 10 minutes, five minutes, break away from the phone. And they look at you like you’ve got three heads because their entire life is on that phone. To your point in this case, college courses, their next schedule, their friends, their entire social, everything is tied to that phone. So I think it’s just something that we have to adapt to. First of all, as parents, as leaders, as company owners and business owners and such, that’s just the way of life. It’s not really a negative thing per se. Sure, we’d like them to spend more time outside or with nature or with the family or what have you, but at the end of the day, that’s what that device has become. Right? Good or bad, that’s what it’s become.

Jason Dorsey:
I think you’re exactly right. Good or bad, it is their pipeline into the world. Even to connecting with their family, they’ll have conversations with their mom or dad by text message that they can’t have in person.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
And sometimes other generations will say to me, “Well, Gen Zs, they’re terrible communicators.” I’m like, “Really? Because they’ve had more conversations in the first 30 minutes of their day than you’re going to have the whole day.”

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
And so it’s just different styles of communicating. And I think there’s a key part here. So if you’re trying to market message or sell to them, you have to adapt to where they are.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
You’re trying to recruit them, same deal. Once they come to work for you, you could teach them, coach them, do the things that you need that leverage their strength and yours. But what I share with Gen Z is, if you want to sell message your market to older generations, you’ve actually got to put down the phone a lot of times have the face-to-face conversation, socially distanced, of course, or just adapt in general. And I think that’s true of every generation.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
Every generation, if they want to be successful, has to adapt to work better or communicate with the other generations.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
And that’s what we teach you how to do in the book.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
My daughter came down for breakfast one day. She’s got her face in the phone for an hour, and she’s trying to fix breakfast while she’s still communicating. And so finally, it just got me to the point, as many parents have been, I said, “Put the phone down. I want to talk to you just one-on-one without the phone. Can’t we just have a conversation?” So she takes the phone and she puts it down. Right? I said, “Great. Let’s just talk. What are you going to do? What are you going to do tomorrow?” She goes, “Well, if I could pick that phone up, I can tell you.” I’m like, “Okay, I get it.” Everything is in that phone, including her schedule for tomorrow. Right? So it’s really become, I know you say it often, and that is that they’re not tech savvy, they’re tech dependent, and it’s just a reality, right?

Jason Dorsey:
Yep.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
It really is.

Jason Dorsey:
Yeah, absolutely. And that’s the thing is it’s not about, I think you said it really well, it’s not about right or wrong. It’s just different. And we can choose to make this an advantage. I mean, in the same way we’ve used laptops to help us be more successful over time or all these different devices.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Jason Dorsey:
This is just the new thing. I think the key is though, Gen Z does not remember a time before these mobile devices, smartphones, before social media, before at the very least, the internet. And so for them, that’s just the natural way. That’s their learned behavior in the way older generations might have used a party line…

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah, yeah.

Jason Dorsey:
… or even set up some group email.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Exactly, exactly. Unbelievable. Well, the book is Zconomy, by Jason Dorsey, How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business-and What You Need to do About it. So pick up the book, it’s a phenomenal book as all of his books are. Jason Dorsey, I want to thank you so much for joining us here on the show. We always get just a tremendous amount of positive comments whenever you’re on and social media. Believe that? Can you believe that, social media? And emails and everything alike. So thanks so much for joining us once again. We really appreciate it. And congratulations on another great book.

Jason Dorsey:
Thank you. Thanks so much for having me on. It’s awesome to see you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thanks.


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