Dealer Consultants

Generation Z: A force 20 million strong

1-15 Forrest Flinn blogJust when you think you have just cracked the code on managing members Generation Y, or more commonly known as Millenials, another generation is cropping up behind them. This new generation is known as Generation Z. Sounds cool right? I’m not sure how they go about naming generations, but it is a catchy name I think. Currently I am planted right in the middle of Generation X who are now in their 40s and are considered mid-career. Knowing that there are two generations behind me makes me feel old, but I know the key to effective dealership management is to understand that many generations are working side-by-side and how to manage each generation effectively.

Currently with the addition of this new Gen Z there are are five generations that we could be managing simultaneously. We have the traditionalists, baby boomers, Gen X, Generation Y and now the Gen Z kids. Whew! That represents a lot of different generations with different motivations, aspirations and perspectives on work life. The focus here is on this tricky new group called Gen Z.

Who is Gen Z and why is it important for us to understand them as people? The marketing view holds that members of Gen Z were born between 1994 and 2010. That means that these guys are just starting to enter the workforce and will be headed to us in droves shortly for jobs. Right now the estimate is that members of Gen Z are right around 20 million in total.

Understanding what motivates this generation is important for two reasons. First of all, it is this generation that is shortly going to have the buying power to be our customers. And secondly, it is members of this generation that we are going to be employing as members of our dealership team. So it is very important that we take the time now to try to get ready for this next generation of employees and customers.

According to a global study conducted by Millennial Branding and Randstad U.S., who researched 2000 respondents around the world, members of Gen Z may be in a better position to handle the ups and downs of work life and be better suited to handle the realities of the real world. In addition the study reveals five attributes that will help us better understand this new and exciting group of employees and potential customers. Below are some practical tips to managing Gen Z in your dealership based on these five attributes:

  1. Members of Gen Z have a more entrepreneurial spirit. What this translates into for dealerships is that you need to create environments for this group that challenge them to contribute their own ideas to dealership growth and prosperity. These team members thrive in environments where they actually can see or connect their efforts to the overall success of the dealership. Effective job design in dealerships to support this entrepreneurial spirit will allow you to attract and retain talent from this generation.
  2. Members of Gen Z are not as focused on monetary compensation as previous generations. Gen Z came into the world and saw their Millennial counter parts fall into the throws of the worst economic recession since the great depression. Because of this Gen Z tend to be more conservative and thrifty. They understand that they have some road to make up in order to have the lives that their parents enjoyed. This group realizes that learning may allow them to be high performers in their dealership roles, but they also understand that this additional knowledge does not always deserve a pay increase.
  3. Members of Gen Z like more traditional methods of communication. This result from the study blew my entire mindset of this generation. I thought since they were born right into technology and that most kids today have smartphones that this generation would prefer to communicate via text, email, Facebook, etc. I was wrong. The research from this study is contradictory to that thinking. According to this study 51 percent of the members of this generation prefer to have face-to-face communications with their bosses instead of emailing or texting. What this means to you is when managing members of Gen Z you should have open and regular face-to-face conversations with them. Don’t assume that because they are glued to their smartphones that they prefer to text or email.
  4. Members of Gen Z are to be taken seriously! Members of Gen Z value their ideas and want to work for dealerships that take their ideas seriously. When compared to Millennials, 61 percent report that they want to work for a manager that listens and implements their ideas. What this means for you is to foster a dealership environment where less emphasis is placed on age and more emphasis is placed on ideas.
  5. Members of Gen Z have a strong need for honesty! Over 50 percent of members of Gen Z reported that they value working for an organization or manager that they perceive as being honest. Members of Gen Z want to work for a manager that does not discriminate against them because of their age or their job description within the dealership. Members of Gen Z feel that honesty is one of the best qualities that a leader can have. So when you look forward, try to encourage a dealership culture that is as transparent as can be. This will foster honest relationships and in turn will attract the best of the best when it comes to hiring or selling to members of Gen Z.

By thinking of these qualities now you are preparing for your dealership’s future. Members of this generation will be our future customers and employees and we owe it to our dealerships to try to understand what makes this generation tick. Members of Gen Z are 20 million strong and at the end of the day they will have an impact on your dealership’s culture and your dealership’s bottom line.

Forrest Flinn, MBA, PHR, SMS has been in the motorcycle industry for nearly 20 years and has been a true student and leader serving in various capacities. He previously worked as an implementation consultant for Lightspeed and as a general manager with P&L responsibility for a large metro multi-line dealership. Currently Forrest is the managing partner and chief visionary for a consulting firm that specializes in outsourced accounting, human resources, social media strategy, dealership operations consulting and Lightspeed/EVO training.


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  1. If we don’t find a way of getting kids off the couch (X-BOX) and cell phones we won’t have a generation of riders to worry about.
    Get small units down to a reasonable cost if we want any chance of keeping our industry vital. Picture us 10-15 years from now with fewer riders filling our industries pipeline. Just look at your own kids and grand kids and take careful note of what you see.

    1. Peter I agree with you. Where the next generation of riders is going to come from is a chilling thought right?

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