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A Defining Moment: The Impacts of the Pandemic on Gen Z and What It Means for Their Future

How the Pandemic is Shaping the Future as Gen Z Comes of Age

blond Gen Z sitting on rock in the wilderness looking at his phone with a CNBC logo on top left

  • COVID-19 is Gen Z’s ‘where were you when’ moment
  • Gen Z has been and will continue to be more frugal than previous generations
  • Expect career reconsideration for older Gen Z and unexpected benefits for the youngest Gen Z

Without a doubt, the last few months have been an unprecedented time. No matter how each of us has been affected, everyone has experienced some sort of change in their lives. According to our latest research, Gen Z has seen the worst of these effects, especially on the economic side. It also shows they are the most likely to change and be changed going forward. The pandemic is what we at CGK call a Generation Defining Moment.

CGK President Jason Dorsey, the author of the forthcoming book, Zconomy, shared at length with CNBC the latest Gen Z  research, insights, and unexpected trends occurring during these novel times. Below are a few essential insights you should know now.

The Pandemic Will Be the First Generation Defining Moment for Generation Z

Previous generations remember where they were during such times as the Kennedy Assassination, when the Berlin Wall came down, and September 11th. For Gen Z, the pandemic will be the first defining moment of this period in their lives. It is their ‘where were you when’ moment.

This matters not just as a point of conversation; it is a defining and consequential moment that will have a significant long-term impact. As Jason shared with CNBC, “This is the first one that they are experiencing on their journey to, or while entering, adulthood.”

Gen Z Will Mind Their Money

The economic aspects of the pandemic are extreme. For Gen Z, their memory of the fiscal uncertainty during the 2008 recession often establishes their tendency for frugality and propensity to be financially risk-averse. As Jason shared in the article, “[Gen Z] were old enough to see and hear their parents struggle [during the Great Recession], but young enough to impact their views and beliefs about money.”

In fact, CGK’s research shows that 69% of Gen Z sees saving for retirement as a priority, and 66% are worried about paying off debt. Keep in mind, the oldest members of this generation are only 24!

Jason went further on this point with CNBC, stating: “The pandemic impacts decisions on everything, from where [Gen Z] live, to cars and the type of company they would go to work for. We are seeing them become more risk-averse. [They are] choosing not to move across the country, choosing not to move far away from what they know right now.”

Career Reconsideration and Unexpected Long-Term Benefits

While these economic, social, employment, and learning times are far from ideal, the pandemic is fundamentally affecting how we work and live. Already, we see college students rethinking industries and careers that no longer seem stable or ideal.  Not only could that mean looking for jobs closer to home or where remote work doesn’t hinder career progression, but also seeking out employers that are offering concrete benefit packages amidst the uncertainty.

For the youngest members of Gen Z, the ways society is likely to adapt will be substantial and be a part of their experience for years to come. At the moment, younger members of Gen Z often say the greatest impact on them is their inability to see friends in person and at school. In the future, they may look back and see something different.

As Jason shared with CNBC, “By the time [Gen Z] enter the workforce, they are going to have seen employers adapt, the education adapt, the credit system adapt. They are going to be the beneficiary of what that change is.”

The unexpected benefit to younger members of Gen Z may be a greater adoption of online learning, collaboration, and other tools—which bodes very well for them and their future employment. The same with skipping going to a bank’s branches or shopping for groceries in-person, all of which may now be part of a bygone era by the time the youngest members of Gen Z enter adulthood.

How Are Your Gen Z Reacting to the Pandemic?

With all of the current pandemic-related challenges, leaders must have the latest insights about Gen Z to ensure that their organizations can engage this important generation as employees, customers, and trendsetters.

At CGK, we are constantly researching Gen Z and their mindset, behaviors, and priorities. This includes how they think about work, money, brands, the economy, family, and much more. We are providing these insights as part of our strategic advisory work,  webinars, and virtual keynote presentations to help leaders have the research-based insights they need to make key strategic decisions.

Contact our friendly team here to learn how we can be your trusted generational strategy resource through this time of uncertainty.

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