Who is Generation Z and How Will They Impact the Future of Associations?

By Rachael Johnston • April 25, 2018

Generation Z can be defined as those born between 1997 and 2010. According to the US Census Bureau, Gen Z outnumbers Millennials and Baby Boomers, making up 25 percent of the population.

They are creative, open-minded, tech-savvy and ambitious. Never knowing a time without technology has made this generation technology-dependent and hyper-aware of the latest news and global issues. They are quick to pick up new software, platforms and technologies, and often, according to a University of Maryland study, display symptoms of emotional distress when kept away from their personal electronic devices.

Generation Z is culturally diverse, tolerant and accepting. According to Business Insider and the US Census Bureau, Generation Z is the most “racially diverse generation in America. This group embraces multiculturalism as part of who they are.  They have grown up in a time when same-sex marriage and a black president is the social norm, and are more likely to know people who are multi-race, gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender than any other generation. They are socially aware, justice-minded individuals who want to make a difference; 60 percent want to have an impact on the world with their jobs, according to TIME.

But this social awareness has made them more cautious than past generations. Generation Z is drawn to safety and steers away from risky behaviors toward more sensible career and life choices. The economic recession of 2008 has shaped the generation and impacted their views and goals. In fact, a survey done by J. Walter Thompson Intelligence firm concluded that 58 percent are either somewhat or very worried about the future.

As this generation enters the workforce, associations must revamp their communication and marketing strategies to target future members.  According to a report released by Common Sense Media, teens and tweens of Generation Z spend between six and nine hours a day absorbing media on multiple platforms, including YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.  With the average Gen Z member using up to five screens for consumption at a time, it is important to send messages across multiple media platforms. Communications with visuals, authentic content highlighting real people, and socially responsible messages will resonate with Gen Zers’ and encourage engagement and involvement.

Although they prefer to receive content on their screens, face-to-face interaction, taking action, and being involved are important to the Generation.  When communicating directly, 53 percent of Generation Z said they prefer in-person discussion over instant messaging or email. This is good news for the future of association events, leadership, and involvement.  It is difficult to know for certain, but members of Generation Z may be equally as likely to attend an event in person as they are to watch it live-streamed on a screen. However, it is important for associations to account for those who would prefer a live-stream, and to maintain Generation Z participation by doing so.

Generation Z members are opportunists who want to gain experience, make connections, and lead. They are eager to learn and make a difference. Therefore, they are likely to get involved in associations- especially those willing to provide professional development and mentorship opportunities, and have plans to make a societal impact.

About The Author

Rachael Johnston is a business development specialist at Naylor Association Solutions.