Think you understand millennials? Brace yourself for Gen Z

June 5, 2019
Brendan Howard, Business Channel Director

Brendan Howard oversees veterinary business, practice management and life-balance content for, dvm360 magazine, Firstline and Vetted, and plans the Practice Management track at all three Fetch dvm360 conferences.Brendan has proudly served under the Veterinary Economics and dvm360 banners for more than 10 years. Before that, he worked as a journalist, writer and editor at Entrepreneur magazine and a top filmed entertainment magazine in Southern California. Brendan received a Masters in English Literature from University of California, Riverside, in 1999.

dvm360, dvm360 August 2019, Volume 50, Issue 8

Theyre the same, and theyre different, and theyre getting ready to invade your veterinary hospital. Get to know them as employees and clients.

Wait, where'd everybody go? I thought we were all obsessed with millennials, born 1981 to 1995-ish. But now the kids born in 1996 are turning 22, graduating college, flying into the workforce and, yes, buying pets that need your veterinary care.

So while the millennials (born mostly to boomer parents) will continue to spend, it's time to think a little bit about Gen Z (born mostly to Gen-Xers).

This is a generation that…

...never lived without the internet

They might have gotten their own computer, laptop, tablet or smartphone earlier or later in their life, relatively speaking, but this generation's world has always revolved around the internet: for entertainment, for shopping, for answering questions.

But here's a weird dichotomy: According to one source, 53% of Gen Z bought something via their mobile device in the past six months (vs. 37% of millennials), yet 53% also say they prefer in-person communication over IMs or emails. Though, when they say “in-person communication,” do they mean just sight and sound and not presence? Maybe, as 85% of them prefer YouTube as their favorite website over millennials' favorite, Facebook.

Time will tell how Gen Z pet owners navigate their favorite ways to get veterinary help, whether informative face-to-face appointments at home or in the clinic, or via televisit calls (with video) over their smartphones. Probably … both.

… wants to see the money

What about these newest employees? By next year, it's estimated they'll be 20% of the total workforce. They prioritize salary (65% vs. 54% of millennials) in jobs, they're entrepreneurial (72% of high school students say they want to start a business), 77% expect to work harder than previous generations and only 38% say work-life balance is important (vs. 47% of millennials). Their more driven, money-focused attitude may come from being raised by Gen X parents who lived through 2008's Great Recession.

One hiring firm asked Gen Z to rattle off their top priorities in a job: Their top three were growth opportunities (they'll leave the position without them), generous pay and making a positive impact (that's in veterinarians' favor). Runners-up include job security, healthcare benefits (easier for corporate practices?), flexible hours and a manager to learn from (you do mentor, right?).

… may distrust big brands.

A survey from Packaged Facts focused on pet food found that Gen Z is less likely to trust “the quality of pet foods produced by larger companies … [a] finding [that] may simply reflect Gen Z's overall lack of trust in large corporations and government institutions.” Could that skepticism work in independently owned veterinary practices' favor? Time will tell.

While predicting the future is fraught with problems, big veterinary companies, large corporate hospital chains and small mom-and-pop veterinary practices are all trying their best to appeal to the pet owners of today and preparing for those of tomorrow.

The surprise is always how fast tomorrow gets here. Start thinking about it now to save yourself some grief.

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