The Data Briefing: The Arrival of Generation Z into the Federal Government. And Generation A?

Jun 21, 2017

In the last national election, the earliest born members of Generation Z voted for the first time. In 2019, the American workforce will see the influx of tens of millions of Gen Zers who, according to some researchers, will be a stark contrast to the Millennials that will make the largest part of the 2020 workforce. According to one researcher’s study of Gen Z, this generational group has seven distinguishing traits:

  1. Phigital – To the Gen Zers, the physical and digital worlds have been merged. Ninety-one percent of Gen Zers want to work for technologically-sophisticated organizations.
  2. Hyper-Custom – Gen Zers want to customize everything from the products they buy to the careers they work.
  3. Realistic – The Great Recession of 2008 and 9/11 have taught Gen Z to not take their future for granted.
  4. Fear Of Missing Out – Social media has helped Gen Z to be on top of all trends. However, the acceleration of social media trends leaves Gen Z fearful of missing out on the latest news and events.
  5. WEconomists – Gen Z has grown up with shared economy companies like Uber and Airbnb. Gen Z doesn’t like silos.
  6. DIY – Like Generation X, Generation Z has a strong independent streak.
  7. Driven – This group is very competitive and may not so easily collaborate as Millennials do.

Personally, I approach generational studies with skepticism. However, I am intrigued by the early findings of this researcher. For a good summary of his work, you can listen to this podcast. Other researchers also support the pragmatic and ultra-competitiveness of Gen Z. Of all the research I have read, the research on the digital habits of Gen Z is most intriguing.

“Yes, this generation communicates almost entirely through screens and not always with actual words (GIFs, videos and emoji also do the trick). Gen-Z’ers are less idealistic and more thrifty than millennials, having grown up in the twin shadows of the recession and student debt crisis. When it comes to privacy on social media sites such as Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr or Twitter, the survey showed that teens are far less guarded than millennials and Gen X members. Members of Gen Z think that everyone should get a smartphone at age 13 and that it is acceptable to use it basically anywhere — at a family dinner, during a religious service, even at weddings (even their own weddings, the survey shows.)”

At the same time, Generation Z is entering the workforce; the workforce is undergoing a major transformation – artificially intelligent (AI) automation. We have seen the increasing use of chatbots and AI robots. There are predictions that AI automation will take away jobs leading to massive unemployment while there are other predictions that AI automation will create new economic opportunities. I believe that some jobs will be lost by AI automation but that may be for the better as it will free up humans to work in creative and more satisfying jobs. What appears to be happening now is the rise of the augmented workforce. In 2017, “41 percent of companies reported they have fully implemented or have made significant progress in adopting cognitive and AI technologies within their workforce” while 34% more companies are beginning to adopt augmentation technologies.

Imagine the intersection of Generation Z (which is the most digitally-ready generation in American history) with “Generation A” (A for augmented, AI, or automated; this is my term for the new augmented workforce). How will the new workplace AI technologies amplify the workforce tendencies of all the generations and especially Generation Z

What does this mean for federal agencies as both trends (Gen Z and Gen A) merge by 2020? How will current federal managers (Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials) adapt to Generation Z behaviors and attitudes? How will federal agencies use augmentation technologies and AI-driven automation in delivering government services? We are only a few short years from 2020 which promises profound changes in the U.S. federal government and for the American public.

Generational markers on a timeline, Gen Z at the front.


Disclaimer: All references to specific products, brands, and/or companies are used only for illustrative purposes and do not imply endorsement by the U.S. federal government or any federal government agency.

Each week, The Data Briefing showcases the latest federal data news and trends. Visit this blog every week to learn how data is transforming government and improving government services for the American people. If you have ideas for a topic or have questions about government data, please contact me via [email]( Data Briefing).

Dr. William Brantley is the Training Administrator for the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s Global Intellectual Property Academy. All opinions are his own and do not reflect the opinions of the USPTO or GSA.