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Generation Z – unhappy, lonely and lacking confidence

Mark Fawcett
generation z

New research shows that today’s 16-22-year-olds, the emerging adults from Generation Z, are significantly unhappier, lonelier, more lacking in confidence and less satisfied with life than older people. Contributor Mark Fawcett, Chief Executive – We are Futures.

Commissioned by youth engagement agency We are Futures, which runs the National Schools Partnership, 1000 individuals were interviewed across the UK comparing that cohort with Generation Y (28-39-year-olds) and Generation X (those aged 40 to 50).

We are Futures Chief Executive Mark Fawcett said: “They are the five million strong sub-set of the generation who have always been able to ‘just Google it’. But that easy, and to them natural, access to information appears to have affected them in unexpected ways, in particular making them more anxious.

“We wanted to peel back the layers, of this particular group, and have empirical data about what makes them tick, how they feel about themselves and their futures, so business is better equipped to understand them as employees, as consumers and their effect on society as a whole. What emerges is the evidence that this is a generation business will need to be treat very differently and they are here now.”

One of the most striking divergences from previous generations is that to live, study and work in a genuinely tolerant, diverse, inclusive, fair and ethical society is regarded by them as a given. So it is essential business demonstrably lives those values. Emerging adults believe that they can easily spot the difference between tokenistic and genuine.

But at the same time, they are much more focused on what’s in it for them as individuals from education, brands and employers.

Added Mark: “Being socially highly aware but individually self-serving makes connecting with this cohort a particular challenge for employers. But brands can capitalise on these traits. Although establishing meaningful connections with them is easy to get wrong.

“For example, we run the National Schools Partnership and when we were devising the financial education package MoneySense for teenage pupils with NatWest, as is our practice, we co-produced content with young people not just with educators, teachers and financial experts.

“It clearly works because since 2015 and as of July (2018) 1.5millon have completed the programme and it is delivered to 16,500 pupils a day and eight out of ten secondary schools in the UK are signed up to it.

“It also works for the banks because the research confirmed another strongly held belief of ours from 15 years of helping brands engage with young people, that emerging adults value companies that benefit them as individuals.

“As one of the survey participants put it in a follow-up focus group: ‘I respect a company more if they respect me. Investing in my development is of more value to me than sponsoring a festival or pushing their products at me with celebrities or whatever. You want to pay back anyone that helps you.’”

By 2025, according to the Office for National Statistics, Generation Z will make up 30 per cent of the work force and recruiting and particularly retaining the brightest and the best is going to be a struggle according to the research.

Like young people for generations they want a job to help them realise their potential and to learn skills, but emerging adults see personal development and up-skilling as routes to new jobs in the future rather than to follow a linear career path with the same company.

Mark believes too many organisations, even when planning for Brexit and the end of free movement, appreciate how vital this cohort is to the UK economy and how they are already leading commercial and social change that is impacting on business.


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