12 October 2016

Gen Z perspectives are different from Millennials'

A panel discussion on Generation Z at the Global Islamic Economy Summit has highlighted the characteristics of the generation after Millennials. Gen Z individuals have not experienced a time without the Internet or mobile phones, and other than being more technologically savvy, also have clear differences in outlook.

“The group is increasingly on the radar of governments who are beginning to question whether the existing education and employment ecosystem can cater to their expectations,” said Sunil John, CEO, ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller. John quoted from the ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey 2016, which found that most young Arabs – 58% – want to further their education, and that more than a third of young Arabs – 36% – want to start their own businesses. Traditionally, young Arabs have looked to the government to provide them with jobs.

“These findings are really interesting in terms of the Gen Z effect,” he said. “If you really look at it, these are very positive findings. Government will see light at the end of the tunnel. They will see a young generation that has a hunger to be successful; people who have an appetite for education, and who want to start their own businesses.”

John added that change will not be gradual. While 95% of nationals in the UAE for example work in the public sector today, depressed job markets and unemployment rates in countries such as KSA mean that the public sector cannot continue as the main employer for long.

Marcie Merriman, Executive Director, Growth Strategy and Retail Innovation at Ernst & Young contrasted Generation Z and Millennials. Millennials, she said, expect companies to do the heavy lifting, and patronise firms they respect in terms of environmental and sustainable practices.

“When I talked to Generation Z, however, who I originally thought of as young Millennials, I began to see something very different: they immediately talked about what they were doing about the environment, as opposed to what the companies were doing.

“The key difference between these two groups, apart from age, was their self-awareness. Gen Z see themselves as having responsibility for their ecosystem, whereas Millennials were looking at others to do things.”

Commenting on their choice of employers Merriman said: “Gen Z has seen what has happened with Millennials. They say this isn’t going to happen to us, we’re not going to let other people tell us what to do. We’re going to take charge of it. And that’s what underlies the entrepreneurial spirit. They have nothing to lose.”

Amani Al Khatahtbeh, founder of Muslimgirl.net, a US website for Muslim women and herself a Millennial, agreed. “For Generation Z, a lot of industries are outdated. They want to be disruptors. They want to flip these institutions upside down, and that gives us a lot of hope.”