Exploring the issues that shape today's business world.

Generation Z: Connected. Creative. Driven.

The next generation is a force to be reckoned with. Here's how to tap into its power. By Judy Giannetto | Digital Exclusive

Gen Z

Born between the mid-1990s and 2010, members of Generation Z are poster children for “digital native.” Let’s face it, two-thirds of all preschoolers are already plugged into the Web, according to the US Department of Education and CMO.com. Smartphones and tablets are not just a way of life; they’re like an extra limb. In fact, 52 percent of Gen Zers use YouTube or social media for typical research assignments, 33 percent watch lessons online, 20 percent read textbooks on tablets, and 32 percent work with classmates online. Is it really any surprise, then, that 79 percent of people display symptoms of emotional distress when kept away from personal electronic devices? (I can empathize with that, by the way.)

And while you might think, “So? What do I care?” remember that more than one-quarter of the US population belongs to the under 19s. Which means they’re going to belong to your workforce in a rapidly approaching tomorrow.

So take a dose of your blood pressure medicine and listen to the good news. This generation’s digital savviness translates to a group of individuals who are adept researchers, and who know how to self-educate and dig deep for the information they’re after. In other words, Gen Z is mature, self-directed and resourceful. A DIY culture and access to crowdsourcing shape its goals for work and self-employment. Seventy-six percent wish their hobbies would turn into full-time jobs (compared to 50 percent of Millennials), 80 percent of high school students believe they are more driven than their peers, and 72 percent want to start their own businesses someday.

Gen Z also wants to make the world a better place. Sixty percent want their jobs to positively impact society, while 36 percent of 16 to 19 year olds currently volunteer. An impressive 76 percent are concerned about humanity’s impact on the planet.

While you may feel you’ve only just gotten a handle on Millennials, don’t fool yourself into thinking Gen Z is more of the same. For instance, where Generation Z typically communicates with images (think emoticons), Millennials communicate with text. And where, generally speaking, Generation Zers want to work for success, Millennials want to be discovered. Which is likely why Generation Z is characterized as realist, while the Millennial generation is characterized as optimist.

All this plays into how you attract, recruit and engage the exemplary members of this fast-moving, go-getting generation. It’s going to take thinking with the mind of a Gen Zer, and seeing the world through their eyes.

Here are six things you need to know, and what they mean to you.

One: Generation Z has an 8-second attention span

You’re going to need to keep your messaging just as short—think “snackable content.”

Two: Generation Z has a five-screen culture

To find affinity with this generation, you need to communicate visually across multiple screens (TV, phone, laptop, desktop, iPad, etc.). And you need to connect Gen Z viewers with digital collaboration opportunities and live-streaming technology.

Three: Generation Z likes its privacy

This helps to explain the surge in Gen Zers moving away from Facebook and towards incognito media such as SnapChat, Secret and Whisper.

Four: Generation Z aspires to create things

So feed that curiosity, and tap into that entrepreneurial spirit.

Five: Generation Z is focused on the future

They’re not going to like being told to wait and see. Nope. They’re going to want to know where your company can take them, and how it’s going to take them there.

Six: Generation Z wants to make a difference

Which means inspiring your audience with the social causes you rally behind.

This article is based on research prepared by the Illinois CPA Society’s Young Leaders Advisory Council. Read more about Young Professional initiatives.