Over the past decade, educators, employers, researchers and marketers have spent significant time and resources dissecting the Millennial mindset. But the generational limelight is beginning to shift as members of the youngest generation, Generation Edge, start trickling into the workplace.
Meet Generation Edge (also known as Generation Z): Born after 1995, they are true digital natives and look to be just as — if not more — influential than their Millennial predecessors. As members of this up-and-coming generation enter their formative years, explore what makes them unique.
While Millennials were mostly raised by idealistic Boomer parents during the self-esteem movement, many Edgers are parented by a very different generation — Generation X.
Generation X came of age during the emergence of 24-hour media and tabloid journalism. In adulthood, Xers were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They entered the job market as the dot-com bubble burst and purchased houses just before the Great Recession.
Gen Xers have been through a lot, and are determined to make sure their kids are better off. Xers are encouraging independent thinking and competition in their Edger children. Consequently, Edgers are showing themselves to be a realistic and practical generation.
Gen Edge influencers (thus far)
If you think Millennials are tech-savvy… well, just wait. Edgers are vastly more adept in the digital world. While Millennials grew up with clunky gaming systems and pixelated graphics, most Edgers can’t recall a time without touch-screens and motionsensing gaming. Millennials remember dial-up internet; Edgers grew up with ubiquitous WiFi, have high expectations around technology and will expect the world to keep up. Technology, however, is only the beginning of the Edger story.
For such a young generation, Gen Edgers have seen their fair share of tragedy. They watched as the country was rocked by terrorism. They worried as their parents fought to keep their homes during the Great Recession. They’ve developed a tough shell to protect themselves from cyberbullying. Social media is teaching them that they can’t trust politicians or even law enforcement. And the first election in which Gen Edgers were eligible to vote? Clinton v. Trump — a race that will go down in history as one of the most contentious and divisive elections ever.
Gen Edgers witnessed some truly dire events, but have also looked on as we’ve made some inspiring changes in the fabric of our culture. They’ve watched as Barack Obama became the first African-American president, seen same-sex marriage legalized, and have followed along (if not participated) as the fight for women’s rights marches on. All of which are astonishing changes from the status quo of previous generations.
The Edger persona
- Dollars and Cents — Understandably, 46% of Edgers are concerned about college debt1, but instead of worrying about it, they’re saving for it. Edgers prefer to save money rather than spend it immediately. While Millennials try to be careful with their money, Edgers take frugality even further. They care about more than just the price tag and a coupon. They want to get the best value for their money; they want to know about additional services that might come with their purchases. These qualities, at such a young age, hint to a financiallyconscious generation, which isn’t altogether surprising considering the financial hardships their Xer parents survived. Since Xers didn’t experience the American Dream like Boomers did, Xer parents are giving their children the practical and savvy tools to be successful in an unfair world.
- Adulting as Teens — While the oldest Edgers have graduated college, this is mostly a teenage generation — albeit one that’s already thinking a lot about their lives as adults. Sixty-one percent of Edgers have already begun saving for their future2, and many of today’s students are concerned about finding a job once they graduate college.3 Still, they remain optimistic about their careers; 32% aspire to be in their dream job in 10 years.4 These highreaching Edgers want to dive into opportunities for career growth as soon as possible. Gen Edgers expect professional development in their first jobs. If companies play their cards right, they can avoid the job-hopping phenomenon so prevalent among Millennials by offering Edgers continual training and providing ample professional development. These types of engagement will be important for retaining Edgers.
- All-Knowing — Edgers have grown up with unlimited, instantaneous access to information. They expect to have a constant connection to their peers and families across multiple platforms, they can and will fact-check anything — and they’re more than willing to research companies and people. They already know whether or not a new line of skin-care products is truly “all natural,” they’re proud of their favorite clothing brand’s nonprofit engagements, and they read all about prominent business scandals. While this can be intimidating, don’t let it be. For an Edger, it’s a breath of fresh air when a company has easily-accessible information that isn’t trying to hide anything.
What this might mean for the workforce
Many Gen Edgers are still in their formative years, but we can already guess some of the traits they might bring with them to the workplace. They are technologically fluent, self-reliant and pragmatic. They’ll be the first to master a new web technology and start seamlessly integrating it into their daily routines… but probably won’t want to be viewed as the new in-house IT and digital specialists (if it’s not in their job description).
Having picked up a thing or two from their Xer parents, Edgers will lean more towards independence and self-reliance than Millennials. They won’t jump at opportunities to collaborate because they’ll be too busy worrying about getting their work done. When they do collaborate, they’ll rely on virtual tools that don’t require being in the same room as their colleagues.
Gen Edgers will also be practical about goals and limitations and determined to see projects through to completion in the most efficient way possible. They’ll try to stay on top of their workloads through multitasking and smart use of processes and technology, and they’ll bring a realistic and disciplined perspective to the workforce.
1 Ameritrade. (2013) Gen Z Ready to take on the world.
2 McLeod, J. (2014, December 4). Column: Gen Z money troubled. The Huntington News.
3 Palley, W. (2012, April). Gen Z: Digital in their DNA. JWT.
4 Crouch, Bob. (2015, March 22) How will Generation Z disrupt the workplace?
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Traditionalist, before 1946; Baby Boomer, 1946-1964; Generation X, 1965-1979; Millennial, 1980-1995; Generation Edge, after 1995
This information is prepared by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Waddell & Reed, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.