iGENs: The Who, What, Why -- And Their Impact On The Workplace

The iGENs are called many things: Post-Millennial, Generation Z, the Selfie Generation, and iGEN. This is the generation born in 1996 or later, the generation that grew up in the “i” world; the world at their fingertips, the iPhone/iPod/iPad generation. So, how will this generation impact our industry?

Who are iGENs?

In 2015, iGENs made up 25 percent of the population. With the increase in number of iGENs comes a change in the socio-cultural, economic, and technological landscapes.

Socio-Cultural Influence

One of the main events that occurred during iGENs’ childhood was 9/11. It influenced the attitudes and culture of iGEN. iGEN has grown up dealing with security concerns, unsettlement, and has never lived without war. iGEN is the most security – conscious generation there has ever been. The industry will have to respond to the insecurity of iGENs with more physical security, as well as more online security. Perhaps this affects cashless vending?

iGENs' self – identify as loyal, compassionate, thoughtful, open – minded, responsible, and determined. When asked to describe their peers, they said competitive, spontaneous, adventuresome, and curious. These values define how iGENs choose to spend their time, money, and energy; the industry needs to respond to iGENs’ expectations framed within these values.

Economic Influences

In 2008, when the Great Recession hit, iGENs were children, and may have felt some of the effects of the recession, such as parents losing their jobs or even losing their home in the housing crash. iGENs know the value of money, and are selective in their buying power. Because of this, some iGENs will want to spend more of their disposable income on hospitality experiences, but with high expectations.

Technological Influences

iGEN has had access to technology from birth. This has impacted iGENs more than any generation in history; technology will continue to be key in their lives. iGEN’s focus on technology influences everything they do and how they do it.

The Center for Generational Kinetics says, “Technology is the core to how they (iGENs) operate in the world.” Along with technology, comes social media. Social media began with Millennials, but has grown exponentially through iGENs’ usage. iGENs communicate freely and sometimes exclusively through digital means. To reach iGENs, the industry will need to rely on digital more than any other form of communication.

iGENs Joining the TALENT

Any industry is dependent on its TALENT. It needs TALENT to bring in and keep customers. As baby boomers begin to retire, some 100,000 jobs will open up in the hospitality industry by 2020. Currently, 32 percent of the hospitality workforce is between the ages of 15-24; many iGENs have grown up working in the industry.

iGENs are looking for jobs as they become available, and will have the digital skills needed to fill those jobs and master advancements in technology. iGENs’ conception of freedom and acceptance of new ideas gives them a competitive advantage over previous generations. iGENs may be the perfect fit for the hospitality businesses. With their skill sets, values, and TALENT, they bring something new and fresh to businesses.

Here are a few facts that leaders should know about iGENs:

1. Curiosity is the driving force of iGENs’ interests; iGENs wants as much information as possible

2. The two most important career goals for iGENs are: job security and work – life balance.

3. iGENs are less optimistic than Millennials about their opportunities.

Industry leaders now know what they expect and how they are going to create relationships with iGENs in the workplace. Hospitality businesses are still adjusting to Millennials. They will also need to adjust and adapt again to iGENs.

About the Authors

Madalyn Carlson, iGEN Senior, The School of Hospitality Business, Michigan State University

Dr Ronald F Cichy, O.M., Baby Boomer Professor