Dr. Patricia Lanier

UL professor Patricia Lanier giving a speech about Generation Z at the Youngsville Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon Tuesday.

Move over, millennials. Generation Z is growing up, already making their mark on the economy and workforce and are a "thankful" change from their predecessors, a University of Louisiana at Lafayette professor said. 

Patricia Lanier with UL's B.I. Moody III College of Business Administration said during a meeting of the Youngsville Chamber of Commerce that these children of Generation X are just hitting 22 years old. This group, like the millennials before them, are different from previous generations while similar to almost all others.

"The cool thing about Generation Z when you start looking at them is that they share a lot of characteristics with every single generation who came before them, including the World War II generation," Lanier said. "They're motivated by security. While the World War II generation grew up in the Great Depression, Gen Zers came up through the great recession."

"Wherever you are, you have something in common with this generation. Trust me, this is the best news ever if there's been this kind of shift with this generation."

Because they saw friends and family lose jobs and homes or may have gone through the hardships, Generation Z is motivated by stability and security.

This also leads to their desire to work independently, be more competitive and be entrepreneurial. According to Forbes, Generation Z is 55 percent more likely to want to start a business than millennials, and many are going into business for themselves instead of going for higher education to avoid the crippling debt that millennials have racked up.

By 2026, Generation Z will be 82 million strong and the largest part of the population as the World War II and Baby Boomer generations start dying off. They also have a purchasing power of somewhere between $44 billion and $200 billion, Lanier said, which will grow as the generation continues to get older, making them prime targets as both customers and employees.

Gen Zers are generally more competitive, can multitask more and are more able to work independently of oversight compared to millennials, which makes for excellent employees.

However, like the generation before them, they want to be catered to as customers, she said. They like to give their business to companies that meaningfully interact with them, give to charity or sponsor events they like, communicate face to face and optimize usage of social media beyond just Facebook.

"Gen Zers think Facebook is for old people, so they use social media differently," Lanier said. "Use Facebook to create events but focus more on short promotional videos and snackable content like on Snapchat and Instagram. Also, highlight your dedication to security. If you ask for their private information like their phone number, they want to know you are dedicated to not sharing that information with anyone."

However, Gen Zers have a flaw, she said. Because of they can multitask more than millennials, they have an attention span of only eight seconds on average compared to the 12 seconds of the previous generation.

Email Dan Boudreaux at dboudreaux@theadvocate.com.