Leadership

Factor Gen Z Stress Into Home Demand, Skilled Worker Futures

Here are seven simple words that can — and must — cut through the fallacies and myths regarding why young people choose livelihoods other than the building and community development trades.

Leadership

Factor Gen Z Stress Into Home Demand, Skilled Worker Futures

Here are seven simple words that can — and must — cut through the fallacies and myths regarding why young people choose livelihoods other than the building and community development trades.

December 7th, 2021
Factor Gen Z Stress Into Home Demand, Skilled Worker Futures
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Generation Z is stressed, more so as a result of the two-year pandemic than other age demographic segments in the U.S.

According to Washington Post staffer Andrew Jeong:

Higher proportions of Americans between ages 13 and 24 say the pandemic has made their education, career goals and social lives more difficult, compared with millennials and Gen X.

Upwards of one out of two Gen Zers say the pandemic is messing with their futures and what they want in their lives. Which, in turn as you'd imagine, carries critical importance on at least a couple of fronts for homebuilders – as a present and future customer segment, and perhaps more critically, as. a present and future talent universe.

What homebuilders and their partners need to know, what it means, why it matters, and what actions they can take now. Gen Z in no uncertain terms is the key human power source for real estate and construction's arc over the next decade, and beyond that, starting in the late 2020s and into the 2030s and 2040s, will power new home demand.

The youngest of the 67 million-plus Americans generational cohort namers call Generation Z are about 13, and the oldest is about 24. Many were born in the Great Recession and came of age – in a character-shaping sense -- during a long, steady trajectory of economic recovery. For all their cognitive lives things – business, technologies, connections, opportunities – looked up, only up, constantly up.

Then they didn't. That's causing stress – a mental state of mind that weighs on well-being – which many view as a pre-symptom of something more troubling that could impact both builders' already-challenged talent universe, and ultimately, household and job formations, family formations, and home demand.

Let's unpack this.

First, stress, whose meaning we remember joins it very closely with the word, "distress," and whose psychological application to one's mental or emotional state really popped up only as recently as 1955 [which may or may not have to do with the fact that 1955 is my birth year].

The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research study (December 2021), “Gen Z and the Toll of the Pandemic” highlights the following:

Source: AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research
Overall, 35% of Gen Z frequently experiences stress and another 46% report experiencing it sometimes. Uncertainty about the pandemic and fear of infection are among the top sources of stress for this generation, comparable to finances, body image, and family or personal relationships.

Should there be any doubt that this stress directly impacts attitudes, preferences, behaviors, and values of people in highly formative years of late-adolescence to early adulthood, consider an example, reported here by AP writers Collin Binkley and Hannah Fingerhut:

The pandemic has been a time to rethink future plans. Before, Gabi Hartinger, 21, was studying to become a teacher. But the last year brought life-changing turmoil — her father spent more than 40 days hospitalized with COVID-19, and her own isolation and anxiety led her to seek mental health counseling."
Now, Hartinger, a senior at the College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, Missouri, hopes to become a school counselor to help younger students coping with their own challenges."

The fact of widely and deeply disrupted presents and futures among nearly 70 million 13 to 24-year-old people – highly diverse, highly-educated, profoundly native to digital platforms and extensively connected through self-serve networks – and now exposed for the first time instant gravitational shocks is both good news and bad news for organizations whose future fitness depends on that 70-million person cohort.

The business leader's choice comes down to understanding and acting to be part of the solution to the weight of stress on Gen Z, or else get relegated to being part of the problem. What does it mean to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem? I don't know the answer. But, no doubt, it's a matter of urgency to discover soon.

Take career decisions, for example. It may surprise you to think about a career as 80,000 hours (40 hour week, times 50 weeks a year, times 40 years) – it sure surprised me to think of it that way – but in the calculus of the minds and hearts of Gen Z that 80k hours needs to balance out with meaning, with purpose, and with fun and relaxation and peace-of-mind as a trade-off.

Here's a look, from Indeed.com, at the top 15 career postings attracting Generation Z job seekers, whom Indeed characterizes as "independent, entrepreneurial, competitive."

Source: Indeed.com

Right, nothing remotely indicates that homebuilding and related careers may be sparking as part of Gen Z solutions for stress. The questions homebuilding thought and practice leaders should pry at and act on go beyond the pat assumption that young people don't want to work hard, and beyond the squishy soft assertions that young people want some idealized experience of purpose.

If you look at that Indeed.com list, what jumps out the most in the case of almost 100% of those occupations is the fullness of agency – i.e. "I'm my own boss," or "my efforts cause these positive consequences," or "I personally matter in X way."

Agency, efficacy, personal impact, self-determination, and a sense of mattering in the scheme of things.

These characteristics of career choices – each and all of which are highly achievable and fundamental in the building and construction and real estate occupations – can be bulwarks of how construction and real estate business leaders can respond in meaningful ways as solutions to generational stress.

Want to step up as a solution for that generational anxiety and insecurity and feeling of helplessness for 13 to 24 year-olds? Give more of them the opportunity to say these words as he, she, or they look at a family arriving to take ownership of a new home in a new community.

"My name is ____ . I built this."

Those seven words hold the future of homebuilding as we will know it.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John McManus

John McManus

President and Founder

John McManus, founder and president of The Builder’s Daily, is an award-winning editorial, programming, and digital content strategist. TBD's purpose is a community capable of constant improvement.

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