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Gen Z’s Experience During the Great Recession Will Guide Them in the Time of COVID-19

CGK President Jason Dorsey Joined Lawrence Jackson of NBC News to Discuss Gen Z and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic

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  • Uncertainty about the future will change how Gen Z works, learns, and spends money going forward
  • Gen Z’s experience as children during the Great Recession foreshadows frugality with money
  • Remote work relationships have the potential to impede promotions and upward mobility for Gen Z’ers already in the workforce

In this time of economic, health, and mobility uncertainty, it is crucial to learn how people are coping with the COVID-19 pandemic. At CGK, we know this pandemic is the Generational Defining Moment for Gen Z. So, what does that mean?

Lawrence Jackson of NBC News interviewed CGK’s President and Gen Z Expert, Jason Dorsey, recently to talk about the tremendous impact the coronavirus pandemic has had on Gen Z. When asked about how generational attitudes are affected by world events, Jason said, “That’s what makes it a Generation Defining Moment as it creates uncertainty towards the future which gets you to change how you think about your own future. And that plays out on everything from spending to education to family planning and all the way to employment.”

Gen Z is already more frugal than Millennials

CGK’s national research has been consistently showing that the tough times of the Great Recession had a profound impact on Gen Z. They watched their parents grapple with the challenging economic times starting in 2008, from their parents losing their jobs to record home foreclosures. These were vivid memories and lessons to the oldest members of Gen Z, who understood what was happening but could not take action to help because they were still too young.

As Jason told NBC News: “Gen Z is much more practical, much more frugal with their money than Millennials are because Gen Z saw the Great Recession and they learned from it without having to be in it. When it comes to money and to jobs, they really want stability. For example, we did a national study before COVID-19 that showed 12% of Gen Z were already saving for retirement. They want to know what the [job] benefits are … that’s really unusual.”

Education and Employment Will Radically Change for Gen Z

Already, every generation—from Gen Z to Baby Boomers–are seeing dramatic shifts in how daily life operates. Even when the worst threats of COVID-19 are past us, life will not go back to business as usual. Grade schools and universities are embracing digital learning (some better than others) and using tools such as Google Classroom and Zoom.

As Jason mentioned in the interview, “[Students are] going to be looking for more cost-effective learning options … you’re going to see that at community colleges, you’re going to see that at state colleges [and] state universities.” In addition, at CGK, we also think many students are going to delay college for at least a year due to the direct cost of education. In addition, there is the economic reality of not wanting to start a long-term financial commitment if their parents are out of work or their job prospects look bleak.

Workers of every generation who are still employed are either working while doing their best to comply with new social distancing and safety rules or working remotely from home. However, there can be unintended consequences to account for working outside the office. Jason noted to NBC, “People who work remote sometimes don’t get promoted as fast, and the reason is they don’t have those sort of accidental experiences where you end up going to lunch with your boss [or] you get pulled into a project last minute because you’re the one who’s nearby.”

What Can Leaders Do Now for their Organizations to Emerge from This Crisis As Strong As Possible?

For any leader, the pandemic creates a crucial time to take smart action to understand precisely how each generation is experiencing this challenging time through their own generational and life stage lens. Leaders then need to know exactly what strategies and approaches work best for a work-from-home or hybrid work scenario and how to drive sales, marketing, and employee performance across generations during this time.

At CGK, we are leading several studies diving into the impact of COVID-19 and how to lead through it as well as delivering numerous presenting virtual presentations and executive briefings every week for clients. By filling in the missing insights gaps with research-based actions and strategies, you can quickly make smart, informed decisions to come out of the pandemic with as strong an organization as possible.

Contact our team here to learn more about our research and the resources we provide to lead and engage different generations during COVID-19 and post-pandemic. We are all in this together and ready to help.

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