Jul 30, 2013

    Go-getting Generation Z comes of age

    The Star/Asia News Network

    IF YOU think Gen Y is a 21st-century enigma as consumers and as a workforce, you might want to look over your shoulder and see who's creeping up.

    Gen Z is hot on our heels and, this year, the first batch of them will come of age when they turn 18. Compared with their predecessors, Gen Y, Gen Z's numbers are fairly small, at 23 million globally, but they are growing rapidly.

    They are the children of Gen X and their birth dates are from 1995 to 2002. Their parents are those born from 1966 to 1976.

    Newsweek touted Gen X parents to be the most educated and more pragmatic in the building of their families. They practise financial planning and work at avoiding broken homes.

    Their kids were born in the technological age. They dabble with mobile phones and computers from a tender age. Their intellectual nurturing is largely supported by electronic gadgets and the Web.

    Unlike Gen Y, Gen Z are more aware of security, more cautious and more connected.

    This is because they are born in an era when global terrorism is rampant and environmental calamities are regular occurrences. The reality of this gets them surging forward to achieve their life goals without hesitation.

    Recently, my friend, a senior wealth planner of an insurance firm, described with wonderment the performance of a 17-year-old intern.

    The teenager, who had yet to acquire his licence to practise, managed to close three deals in six months.

    He was certainly a young man in a hurry to follow in his parents' footsteps to become an entrepreneur. In fact, he plans to do better than them.

    Being home-schooled, he could schedule his tuition at night and work at the insurance firm in the day. He has a well-charted career path and believes that the insurance sector is a good training ground to develop people skills.

    A cursory glance at Gen Z leads me to believe they have learnt, directly or indirectly, from observing the experimental ways and follies of Gen Y. They have decided that taking charge and moving forward are the only ways to achieving their goals.

    Their natural aptitude to connect with the global community equips them with the skills and maturity to internalise information, to conceptualise their desires and chart their path. Gen Z may well be the ones to cast aside the "exploratory and experimental" approach to cater to the whims of the Gen Y consumers.

    They will be the generation shapers who will be attracted to elements that can help them acquire personal excellence. Unlike their predecessors, they will not mind climbing the ladder rung by rung, so long as they get there.

    The downside to this passage is the tendency for Gen Z to forgo cultural and social values in their determination to achieve success.

    The writer is group managing director of D'Jungle People, a corporate-training consultancy.