Now that Gen Zers are reaching their early and mid-twenties, it won't be long until they start enrolling their children in their first years of school, and before we know it they’ll be the dominant parent cohort. This means that schools will need to update their marketing strategies to accommodate the values and expectations of Gen Z, which have significant differences from previous generations. In this article, we’ll go through what it means to be part of Gen Z, and how schools can adapt to their era of parenting. 

Who's Gen Z?

Gen Z is the generation succeeding millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. The start date for Gen Z is usually pinned around the mid to late nineties, with the latest years to be born in the early 2010s. Gen Z is the first truly digital generation, and have spent their entire lives on social media sites, where a large proportion of their social interactions take place. 

Gen Z is also known for experiencing significant societal-level change within their relatively short lifespans. Their early years were marked by the September 11 attacks in 2001, which is considered one of the most significant events in modern history. As far as their behaviour goes, Gen Zers are more likely to have multiple jobs during their lives, are more globally-minded, have a shorter attention span (due to technology), and are more prone to struggle with  mental health challenges like anxiety.

How's Gen Z different from millennials?

According to research by Adecco, members of Gen Z are more concerned about the cost of education than millennials. While the main concern is for the cost of their own university education, it could also point towards future concern over the cost of their children’s education. Gen Zers are also more likely than millennials to search for their dream job, instead of stability. This is indicative of their change in attitude towards work/life satisfaction, but doesn’t paint the full picture, seeing as Gen Zers are also more likely to follow the influence of their parents, which is strange seeing as their parent’s generation have significantly different views and beliefs. 

Gen Zers are also more open in general about mental health, and honest about their mental health needs. They tend to value both mental and physical health, whereas previous generations were more focused on just the physical. Social media and the internet is a big contributor to their mental health, and they tend to value themselves based on their social media activities and reputations. In fact, Gen Z moms have been found to spend almost two hours more on their screens than millennial moms.

In terms of being parents, Gen Zers tend to view parenthood as identity-improving, and a role which enhances their lives. They are very child-focused, and want to be heavily involved in their children's lives.

When doing product research or searching for a service (including a school), Gen Z parents are concerned with quality, safety, affordability, and convenience, and also value brands who are innovative, transparent, and are invested in corporate social responsibility. They are critical of advertising that plays on emotions, and respond better to appeals to intelligence rather than emotion in marketing.

What are the expectations of Gen Z parents?

Those part of Generation Z have very different views from the generations who came before, including on religion, the environment, sexuality, morality, politics, and more. In general, Gen Zers are expected to be less religious than earlier generations, so it will be important for faith based schools to look at how they can attract and engage families who share their core values.

Gen Z parent’s expectations are shaped by their values and experiences. Foremost is their experience with technology, especially smartphones, and the internet. They are the first generation to truly grow up with the internet and social media, and it’s very natural to them. Printed material is much more likely to be lost on them, and they’ll feel the absence of technology. Furthermore, they’ll be much more sensitive to the quality of your technology, and have a keen eye for optimization and graphic design. They’re just as likely to react negatively towards poor technology as they are to no technology. 

They’re also very receptive towards personalized communication and experiences. This is largely due to their attitude towards identity, where they have a much more flexible and fluid view. Gen Zers do not like to be pigeon-holed and labelled, and appreciate sensitivity towards their sense of self. They’d also like teachers to take this approach, wanting to enrol their children in creative and flexible schools, where they value teachers with ‘soft’ skills like empathy over ‘hard’ skills, such as academic expertise. By showing parents that you care about the individual needs of their children, you’ll set your school on the right track.

How schools can meet Gen Z parent's expectations

Schools need to adapt both their marketing and their internal processes to meet Gen Z expectations, which will only become more and more dominant as more Gen Zers become parents. Because technology is such an important part of their lives, it’s crucial to meet them wherever they are online. The old ways just won’t cut it anymore, and printed newsletters are on the way out. Gen Zers want instant messaging and digital hubs for news and events, and expect at least your website to be up to date. However, as more and more schools develop apps, they’re also becoming more of an expectation. Gen Z parents are savvy, and are sure to compare the tech capabilities of different schools when they’re in their search phase. 

So, your school’s tech needs to be up-to-date and optimized for the modern world. A company like Digistorm is well-suited to develop all the digital touch points you need, from an SEO-optimized website, a school app, and an enrolment management system like Funnel. The advantage of digitally upgrading your school isn't just for improved parent experiences, but for streamlining your internal processes and making the lives of your marketing and admissions staff easier. And this tech will allow your school to personalize on scale, with a CRM like Funnel automating much of the busy-work it would usually have taken your staff hours to do.

When updating your internal processes for Gen Z parents, it’s important to hone in on the expectations mentioned earlier.  Soft skills among staff members should be encouraged and developed, with a focus on establishing mental health policies within schools. School marketers also need to dedicate themselves towards highlighting their school’s corporate social responsibility efforts, while remembering to avoid emotional appeals and be as transparent as possible. If your school lacks any significant corporate social responsibility initiatives, now may be a good time to approach your school’s stakeholders about implementation, so you can best position your school for the new generation of parents. 

Wrapping up

We’re still in the early days, but with such a big difference between their views and expectations and those of previous parents, it’s important to use these first few years to learn as much as you can to hone your strategies and maintain healthy admissions and retention numbers. By focusing on improving technology, encouraging soft skill sets among staff, and focusing on your school’s corporate social responsibility, you’ll be off to a great start and will better your chances of connecting with Gen Z parents and meeting their expectations.

Published March 23 2022