Who is Generation-Z?
The next generation of credit union young professionals (YP’s) are here, ready to make waves and revolutionize the credit union industry. Born between the late 1990’s and early 2010’s, Generation- Z grew up during an incredibly transformative time; the digital world was taking off, the heavy short- and long-term financial impacts of 2008’s great recession were felt in many homes, and the shadows of global terrorism and war were continued topics of conversation. Generation-Z also serves to be the most racially and ethnically diverse generational group yet to be seen in history. According to Pew Research Center, one-in-four Gen Zers are Hispanic, 14% are black, 6% are Asian and 5% are two or more races. They have directly observed, experienced and discussed the effects of geopolitical disruption, environmental crises and economic turmoil at a very young age. As this generation became young adults, society began to recognize the level of impact these experiences held, and how they would play a pivotal role in shaping the values, insights and intrinsic drivers of Gen-Zers personal and professional life. Forbes has written that Gen-Z will supplement 27% of the workforce in OECD countries and make up one-third of the world’s population by 2025. As many joined the workforce in recent years, corporate ideals of Gen-Z young professionals began to emerge.
Insights. Ideas, and Skills of Gen-Z YP’s
Gen-Z greatly values mission-driven work. They want to make sure their time is spent making a true difference that is fulfilling the needs of the current moment whilst striving to create a sustainable future. Their strength lies within their ability to be vocal, stand up to injustices and take charge. A recent poll conducted by Deloitte and The Network of Executive Women (NEW) noted that 77 percent of Gen-Z respondents say it’s important when their organizations’ values align with their own. They are more inclined to support an organization whose mission is rooted in a definite roadmap, met with intentional goals, and will take the necessary steps in order to create sustainable change. Essentially, they expect corporations not only to talk the talk but walk the walk, and to be honest about their critiques and improvements along the way. Gen-Z finds DEI an expectation at their workplace, as it has been a part of their lived experience and education from younger years. They have witnessed and felt the impacts of stagnant political and social action and would rather be the key player in leading change to achieve diversity, equity and inclusion for all – using empathy as their instinctive tool.
Generation-Z, also quite recently known as Zoomers, largely joined the workforce at the start of a global pandemic. COVID-19 turned the workplace on its head, as many employees were left to dictate their workday within the confines of their homes. Many asked themselves, how does one pivot a work style that largely relies on in-person communication to mostly digital? Well – look no further than to your young professional digital natives. Gen-Z has never known life without the creation of the internet and digital media. Gen-Z was the first generation to interact with the many stages of technology as it developed right in front of their eyes – making them the most digitally savvy generation to date. They understand that reaching people through digital platforms isn’t the fallback, but an essential tool to interact with a global audience. This revealed the importance behind genuine digital storytelling – an idea seen to be relatively new, yet something this generation has been participating in their whole lives. Gen-Z’s are the cultivators, seekers and perpetuators of current and relevant digital trends. They curate digital campaigns that bring the globe to you, creating a space to authentically listen, learn and foster change, right at your fingertips. The emergence of YP’s in the workplace amongst a global pandemic unveiled not only how an industry can leverage Gen-Z YP’s on digital platforms, but also just how far creative thinking can take you.
According to a study done by Vision Critical, 80 percent of Gen-Z believe that finding themselves creatively is important. This should come as no surprise, based upon many influential events during their younger years, Gen-Z sought to think outside the confines of what society was offering to foster spaces for change. They are cultural creators, with an innovative toolbox that blends the physical and digital worlds into one. They observed previous generations sacrifice their work-life balance, values and sometimes passions for a corporate job. While the job landscape for many industries recently widened as remote work increased, YP’s capitalized on the recent widening of job landscapes to seek out positions that will uphold their values and passions without feeling compromised. They strive to incorporate their creative skills into spaces that make them feel energized, passionate and a part of the solution. This group takes chances and seizes the moment instead of waiting their turn, and they expect corporations to support and lead them in ways where they can creatively succeed.
How are we leading and learning from Gen-Z YP’s?
In order to speak to a new generation of young professionals, leadership styles need to morph in order to account for strengths, skillsets and passions they bring to an industry. We’ve acknowledged that Gen-Z folks are generally autonomous, digitally savvy and are creative thinkers. Leaders that not only permit, but endorse opportunities for YP-led projects and the personalization of their career journey allow for Gen-Zs to work on developing their skills in interdisciplinary ways. Gen-Zs are also the perfect spokespeople to address the generation that is currently lacking within the credit union space. A 2022 CU times report shows that a mere 34 percent of Gen-Z interacts with a major national bank or credit union, and only 16 percent with a regional or community bank or credit union. Credit union leaders can leverage YP voices, many of which can relate to Gen-Z members’ financial journeys and showcase how credit unions are helping young people meet their financial goals. Look no further than to social media, where Gen-Zs can utilize their digital skillsets and drive Gen-Z traffic to credit union social media profiles. These young professionals are looking for more than empowerment and words of encouragement – they are asking organizations to dig deeper. Essentially, Gen-Z is looking for their leaders to become pushy for YP’s to become visible. Introduce them to spaces where one does not typically see a young person. Intentionally refer them to educational opportunities that speak to their creative and professional goals. Lead them to platforms where their voices are heard amongst c-suite and executive levels. This generation is not asking their leaders for a seat at the table, but a reconstruction of the table itself. In return, Gen-Zs are fueled with the educational and industry knowledge that will ignite retention and lay the foundation for future generations of credit union leaders.
There are four active generations in the workforce at the same time, something humans have never experienced before in contemporary history. We’ve learned about what Gen-Zs are seeking in their professional journey, but how do they interact with the three additional generations, and where does empathy play its role? Inter-generational empathy is curated through care, companionship, and connectedness for and to different generations. To build this form of empathy within the workplace, generations need to find the commonalities between one another, and see value in spaces that differ. Specifically, in regards to credit union space, it’s important for all generations to learn about their role in curating this global credit union system, which in return, breeds a sense of belonging. Belonging is a feeling where one feels secure and supported, where all members are working towards a common goal. When belonging is felt, empathy is bred. If this can occur though an inter-generational lens, retention and passions are at an all-time high. As members of the credit union industry, every represented generation is held accountable in making sure our belonging principal, “People Helping People”, means ALL people, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and generation.
“The ropes are old!”
There is a common old saying said many times within the workplace – “you have to learn the ropes”, meaning, each young professional is required to listen, learn and progress in their career in similar fashions done before. After all we’ve discussed, Gen-Zs are ready to say, “The ropes are old!”. These ropes aren’t as sturdy nor dependable as they first were. They have not been updated in a while and are in desperate need of repair. The workplace shift is taking place, the Gen-Z young professional population is only increasing, and the credit union industry needs to pay attention. Generation-Z is eager to restore these ropes, adding string, tying off loose ends, and making sure they lead to deep inclusion and sustainable change.