Today, we have a guest on the show, Steven Robertson, who wrote the book Aliens Among Us: Ten Surprising Truths About Gen Z. He will help us understand four facts about Gen Z that you need to know before recruiting Generation Z.
We know there is an emerging and growing skills trade deficit, a gap in our country. The Baby Boomers are retiring at an alarming rate, and we need to understand the generations coming behind them: What motivates them? How do they think? How can we compel them to maybe enter into the trades?
Steven is an expert in this field. He works closely even today with many from this generation. So he has a lot of expertise on how to attract, how to retain, how to recruit, and how to make an environment that's compelling to Gen Z—young people between the ages of 12 and 27.
First, Steven starts with a self-professed “bad” analogy.
If we take a tin of blue paint and pour some yellow paint into it, as you start to stir, the center becomes green—Gen Z is the green. They have always been green. Every other generation is blue. And this yellow paint, which I call a perfect storm, is slowly but surely turning the rest of us green.
That transitional process is what's so important to understand because when you understand why Gen Z are wired differently, it changes your whole perspective on how to now go about engaging with them and what matters.
This perfect storm has four components.
Facts About Gen Z: How Their World Differs From Ours
The first part of the perfect storm is technology.
A great way to highlight that is when we think about artificial intelligence (AI). We have AI patents from 2016, around 2,500 of them, to 2021, where it's just under 19,000 patents that are AI-related. In 2021, the global total corporate investment in AI reached almost $94 billion, up from $12.75 billion in 2015. Moore's law is happening.
So technology is something that’s part of Gen Z’s life in a way it wasn’t for any other generation. They’ve been born into it. And for a generation that is growing up in this, for them, it's green; it's not good or bad; it just is.
2. World News
The second component is world news.
It's a strange topic, but there's a thing called “Mean World Syndrome,” which was studied in the seventies. It basically looked at people watching violent television, and it showed how there was this irrational fear of the world based on what you allowed in through TV.
Now you amplify world news today, and you look at 24/7 plugged-in news. Before, you barely knew what was going on in your town. You might find out what was going on five doors down, but now you literally know everything that's going on everywhere all the time. And so what that has brought about is this irrational fear of the world outside.
There's data that shows we live in the safest, healthiest (Covid included), and wealthiest time in recorded human history. But we feel like we're going to die in a minute, right? Or be killed, or whatever the case is. So that's world news.
3. Social Media
The third fact about Gen Z is their relationship with social media; you may think it's the same as world news, but it's not. Social media is a language. So there are two sides to that coin. There's a negative side to that whole social media part, but there's also a positive side that makes it a tool used to communicate.
Some research suggests that the growing amount of time teens spend on their mobile devices, specifically on social media, contributes to the growth in anxiety and depression among this group. Others see it as a positive, enabling users to stay connected with friends and family.
“Social media isn’t dying, it’s simply evolving. And Gen Z is driving the change,” said analyst Jasmine Enberg. The pandemic forced Gen Z to create stronger communities online, and this desire for connection is driving their decisions to use an array of smaller apps instead of the most popular social media platforms.
4. Parenting and Leadership
And the last of the four is parenting and leadership.
Our style of parenting and leadership is really important. And from a work perspective, writer Bruce Togan speaks about an epidemic of “undermanagement” in the workplace. What Covid and this work shortage have amplified is that there's no longer going to be an epidemic of undermanagement because what we used to do is “sink or swim.”
The skilled trade deficit has taught us that if we plan to retain younger generations, that “sink or swim” style of leadership is just not going to cut it. Now, leadership is more of a mentoring process.
So those four things are primarily why Gen Z has arrived wired differently. They're not just teenagers going through a phase. They're not going to “snap out of it.” They are already determining how work is and will be done. They're determining how customers will buy and what they value.
52% of the world's population is under the age of 30. So we have a whole lot of generations that have gone through this journey of learning from the generation that comes before them, and this one is no different.
Recruiting Generation Z for the Skilled Trades
Is Gen Z interested in trade jobs? Although Gen Z’s interest in blue-collar work has been declining, we can do our part to encourage them to consider the trades. Encourage high school students to take a shop class, talk about the financial benefits of trade school vs. college, and the upskilling potential for workers as technology advances.
The shortage in skilled trades is partly due to the next generation being solely directed to pursue white-collar jobs. This cultural stigma has infiltrated the minds of young people, portraying the trades as a lesser vocation compared to traditional jobs that require a college education.
We’ve got to change the false perception that you need a degree in order to be successful.
The skilled trades are full of brilliant, hard-working men and women. Without their dedication to working in the trades, our country wouldn’t be what it is today. With Gen Z, we have the opportunity to change the narrative. 9 to 5 jobs aren’t for everyone, and the trades offer a worthwhile alternative.
If you’re looking to hire the next generation of tradesmen, contact Skillwork.