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March 21, 2013

A Complex Digital Generation Coming of Age

By Marie Lingblom

There is disagreement about the exact birth years, span and name for our most connected generation – but there’s plenty of speculation about how this digital generation will impact technology, business operations and the economy.

In a blog last week, Claire Raines, co-author of Generations at Work, says while this generation is referred to as “Generation Z,” it will eventually be named for an event or trend that happens around 2020. As with all generations, she says, this one will be shaped by the times.

Generation Z, loosely agreed to be born by the mid to late 1990s, is much smaller in than the Millennials or Gen Xers, but the skills and tech savvy the Gen-Zs possess are game-changers in everything from IT capabilities and strategy to organizational culture, marketing and branding.

According to Raines, a likely labor shortage in the 2020s, similar to the 1990s, will find this generation needed, even catered to. She mentions that virtual learning consultant Adman Renfro, who studies Gen-Z as students, says 65 percent of them will work in jobs that don’t even exist today.

Worth considering are the results of a study on Gen Z released this month by collaborative media company Wikia. The results provide a glimpse into a constantly connected, complex demographic that’s changing more quickly than any generation before them.

Jennifer Betka, SVP of marketing at Wikia, says the study emphasizes how these teens are engaging, contributing, sharing and learning on open platforms in pursuit of greater potential and connectedness.

Wikia conducted the online survey among 13-year-old to 18-year-olds from Dec. 17, 2012, to Feb. 4, 2013, in association with Ipsos MediaCT, “GenZ: The Limitless Generation.” Here are some of the survey results:

• All (100 percent) are connected for 1 or more hours per day, but nearly half (46 percent) are connected 10 or more hours per day.

• One in four (25 percent) report being actively connected (checking e-mail, messages, etc.) within five minutes of waking up, while nearly three in four (73 percent) are connected in an hour or less.

• There are few “sacred” times away from technology. Three in five (63 percent) say they are unplugged during work/school. However, only 44 percent say they are unplugged while at religious services, 44 percent say they are unplugged while doing homework/studying and 45 percent say they are unplugged while playing sports/exercising.

• Nearly half (47 percent) say they are more actively connected now than they were three months ago. Two in five (41 percent) say their connectivity is about the same, and only 12 percent say they are less actively connected. Among those who say their tablet is the most useful device they own, 63 percent say they are more actively connected now than three months ago.

• Nine in 10 (93 precent) say they visit YouTube at least once a week, and 54 percent visit multiple times per day. Meanwhile, 65 percent say they visit Facebook weekly and 38 percent visit multiple times per day. Other social media services visited on a weekly basis include Twitter (26 percent), Google+ (26 percent) and Instagram (17 percent).

• Among those who contribute to Web sites, 60 percent share their knowledge with others and 55 percent share their opinion with others. Only 31 percent say they do so to feel good about themselves, and even fewer to show they are smarter than others (14 percent). The top two reasons for contributing are entertainment and (70 percent) and learning new things (64 percent).

• Three-quarters (76 percent) agree their experience with technology will help them reach their goals. Two-thirds (66 percent) agree technology makes them believe anything is possible. Less than half (43 percent) agree they value the time when they’re unplugged.

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