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COVID-19 Will Define Gen Z and the Next Generation

Business Insider Interviews CGK President Jason Dorsey About the Post-Pandemic Generation

Photo of a teenage girl lost in thought

  • COVID-19 will be a key factor in defining the birth year cut-off for Generation Z
  • All generations are experiencing the impacts of COVID-19 differently
  • COVID-19 will be the “Generation Defining Moment” for Gen Z, says Jason Dorsey

At The Center for Generational Kinetics, we are closely researching the impact of COVID-19 on Gen Z. We’re especially focused on how the pandemic will change the attitudes, behaviors, and expectations of this generation at their critical time in their emergence. One discovery is clear: Gen Z will now have a birth year cut-off date of approximately 2015.

As Jason Dorsey, CGK’s Co-Founder and President, told Business Insider recently, “COVID-19 is looking to be the dividing line between Gen Z and the beginning of the next generation.” Those that come afterward will not remember COVID-19, but it will be something they learn about in history class, on YouTube, or from their parents. This difference in views of the pandemic will separate Gen Z from the generation after it. At CGK, we believe that COVID-19 will be Gen Z’s Generation Defining Moment.

The Coronavirus Will Have A Profound Impact On The Next Generation

Whether Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, or Gen Z, extraordinarily emotional and impactful events have helped shape and define each generation. Baby Boomers came of age during the Civil Rights Era, and Millennials were profoundly impacted by September 11th and its aftermath. The newest generation, Gen Z, will come of age in a world where virtual conventions are the norm and where businesses and brands completely revamp how they communicate, engage, and market to consumers, potential employees, and more. We write about all of this in our soon-to-be-released book on Gen Z, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business–and What to Do About It.

COVID-19 is Profoundly Impacting Previous Generations Too

Just as those who clearly remember the assassination of President Kennedy or where they were on September 11th, so will those who have been affected by the coronavirus—regardless of generation. The difference between the impact on Gen Z and other generations from COVID-19 is their relative youth. Gen Z is at exactly the life stage where their views and trajectory are being shaped, which makes this pandemic even more impactful for them. It’s also the first major, earth-shaking event for them, so they do not have another event as a reference point for how to respond or move forward. Already the pandemic has dramatically upended their schooling, mobility, and personal finances, along with a new reality of being quarantined at home, food shortages at grocery stores, and more.

For Gen Z specifically, Jason told Business Insider, “[High school students] are more worried about their post-graduation plans while [college students] are concerned about job prospects.” He added, “It’s likely Gen Z will become even more financially risk-averse than they already are and that the pandemic will change how they view work and learning.”

There are myriad ways to examine the effects of this current global crisis on Gen Z and other generations. Here at CGK, we are continuously leading generational studies nationally and internationally to uncover the hidden data and drivers that bridge and separate each generation. As Jason Dorsey has said in his many keynote speeches and research presentations, Gen Z is tech-dependent. Right now, we’re studying that dependency closely—particularly how the quarantine impacts schooling, communication, collaboration, and spending with Gen Z and each generation. New dependencies are emerging as the world embraces a reliance on virtual, contactless-everything, stock market volatility, government intervention, and a sea of unknowns relating to jobs and the future.

But Don’t Start Calling Them “Gen C”—Yet

Just as Gen Y became more commonly known as Millennials, the newest generation will be more aptly named when they come of age. To them, the time of COVID-19 will be a history lesson, just as 9/11 is for Gen Z in the U.S. As Business Insider quoted Jason, “So even though ‘the oldest members of the next generation are probably already born, up to four or five years old and using someone’s iPad already,’ their life experience will be shaped by living in a post-pandemic world — not bearing the brunt of the pandemic, as Gen Z is.”

What Can Leaders Learn Right Now?

As a leader, the pandemic creates a crucial time to quickly take action to accurately understand how each generation is experiencing this challenging time. Leaders also need to know exactly what strategies and tools work best for a work-from-home scenario and how to drive sales and marketing across generations during this time. At CGK, we are leading several studies and presenting virtual presentations and executive briefings to fill in the insights gaps so leaders can quickly make smart, informed decisions to come out of the pandemic with momentum. We are also incredibly excited about our soon-to-be-released book on Gen Z, Zconomy: How Gen Z Will Change the Future of Business–and What to Do About It, which is designed specifically for leaders, marketers, parents, and employers.

Contact our team here to learn how our COVID-19 research and generational insights can help you and your business through this period of uncertainty.

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