By Frank Vascellaro

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — If you’re the parent of a teen, or an employer looking to hire a young person, two local authors may have exactly what you need to better understand them.

Their new book has insights into how this up-and-coming generation thinks and acts.

“So Generation Zers, we’re the generation that follows the millennials. We were born between 1995 and 2012. There is nearly 73 million of us, and you know, the greatest misconception there is, is that everyone kind of assumes that anyone under 30 is the same, we’re all millennials, and really that is the biggest mistake to be made,” Jonah Stillman said.

David Stillman and his son, Jonah, are the authors of “Generation Z at Work.”

(credit: CBS)

WCCO’s Frank Vascellaro sat down with them to learn about their research and better understand the group raised with smartphones and online apps.

David Stillman and his son, Jonah, have identified seven key traits of Generation Z.

“I think the funkiest one that people are always so shocked to here about is one called phygital. So, phygital is the blending of the physical and the digital worlds. So, we now live in a world where every physical aspect of life has a digital equivalent. And for Gen. Z this line has not just been blurred, it’s been completely eliminate — eliminated, excuse me. For us, we just assume technology can do everything,” Jonah said.

So, how do bosses attract Gen. Zers to work for them?

“Well, I think one thing, another trait we’ve identified is hyper-custom. So here’s a generation that’s used to living a very hyper-customized world. They go online and they design their own Nike shoes, they go to Amazon, it’s like, ‘Welcome back Frank,’ so they just grew up in this custom world, so now this level of customization they expect to play out in the workplace,” David said. “Fifty-six percent of Gen. Z want to write their own job descriptions. I’ve seen leaders let Gen. Zers come up with their own job titles.”

The Stillmans believe this new generation is more realistic than millennials.

“So this idea that there’s winners, there’s losers and it’s a tough world out there, much more tough love. And, as a result we’re seeing a generation — I mentioned that they’re realistic, another big trait of ours, very driven generation. They’ve been told from day one, you gotta fight hard. And so that driven and competitive generation is going to be new for the workplace,” David said.

Seventeen-year-old Jonah says parents shouldn’t freak out if their teens are glued to their technology.

“They’ll come into the room and they got the iPod in, they’re looking at their phone, the laptop’s here and the TV’s on, but at the end of the day, it’s just the world we’ve grown up in and we always tell people, ‘Well, how is your kid doing in school?’ ‘Well, they’re a 4.0 student.’ Well then, just because it’s different doesn’t mean it’s necessarily worse, it’s just what we’ve come to. So, instead of looking at the way it’s done, it’s just different,” Jonah said.

With all that tech, the Stillmans still found the majority of Gen. Zers prefer face to face conversations.

“I think the payoff is huge. I mean, we’re finding this generation is willing to roll up their sleeves. Seventy-five percent said, ‘I’m willing to start at the bottom and work my way up.’ We haven’t seen that for a long time,” David said. “And, also a generation, that if we can give them these custom careers, and get to know what makes them unique, they’re going to stick around. Sixty-one percent said they’re willing to stay 10 years at a company, so loyalty is back on the table.”

The Stillmans say the goal of book is to anticipate where we’re going to click and where we’re going to clash with this new generation and what to do about it.

College administrators may want to read it too. One of the Gen. Zers top concerns is being able to afford college and 75 percent of them believe there are ways of getting a good education other than going to college.

[graphiq id=”ZstL6QMl2l” title=”Generation Z” width=”600″ height=”438″ url=”” ]

Frank Vascellaro