It’s up to Multifamily to Listen to What Gen Z Is Saying

By Tim Blackwell

Source: Property Management Insider

With the arrival of a new generation of renters, marketing strategies typically change in multifamily housing and other businesses. Millennials have made more impact in the apartment industry by transforming leasing and amenity preferences than any other generation. And Gen Z, the next wave coming into focus, isn’t just following suit.

One thing both are doing, however, is sending a stern message to Corporate America about what they expect in the future. It may be a sobering moment for many companies who think they can go about business as usual.

Millennials and Gen Z are both about positive impact in the broader world and attuned to how businesses behave ethically. No secret there. But in Deloitte’s latest Millennial Survey released in May, both are showing less loyalty and confidence in business.

Younger generations skeptical of business motivations

The seventh annual survey, which asked nearly 10,500 millennials in 36 countries and 1,850 Gen Z-ers in six countries about their views on business, revealed the younger demographics are more skeptical of companies’ motivations and whether they are committed to the greater good.

Less than half of millennials now feel businesses behave ethically compared to 65 percent a year ago and fewer believe business leaders are committed to helping improve society (47 percent vs 62 percent).

“As highlighted over the past six years, millennials—and now Gen Z—are acutely attuned to business’ wider role in society, and overwhelmingly feel that business success should be measured beyond financial performance,” the survey said. “They believe business’ priorities should be job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment.”

While they recognize that profits are necessary, millennials and Gen Z believe businesses should focus more on other things than the bottom line. Unlike previous generations of workers just glad to have a job, today’s younger workers are choosier and need positive reasons to be loyal to their employers, according to the survey.

But, while they want businesses to help them with career development and prepare for Industry 4.0 changes, neither envision hanging around too long. The survey notes that 61 percent of Gen Z expects to leave a job within two years, compared to 43 percent of Millennials. Only 12 percent of Gen Z feels like staying beyond five years, compared to 28 percent of Millennials.

For Gen Z, financial rewards/benefits and a positive workplace culture trump all other reasons to work. Also, each generation is a proponent of the Gig Economy, the segment that takes on short-term contract or freelance work in addition to full-time employment. Of millennials who are in senior management, 70 percent favor taking on such work as an alternative to working full time.

Deloitte says that “attracting millennial and Gen Z respondents begins with financial rewards and workplace culture; it is enhanced when businesses and their senior management are diverse, and when the workplace offers higher degrees of flexibility. Those less than satisfied with their pay and work flexibility are increasingly attracted to the gig economy.”

Companies that are able to balance social concerns with profitability and be more generous to employees and the community will attract and retain the cream of the crop.

Millennials, Gen Z paying attention to multifamily social practices

Certainly, that speaks volumes for the future of leasing apartments, especially now that Gen Z has arrived and is signing leases for the first time.

“Really, this generation is paying attention to everything socially that we are doing,” said Edr Vice President Kim Grisvard as a recent student housing conference. “It’s about giving back or contributing, the whole fitness, wellness thing and also about being eco-friendly.”

Citing a number of surveys and industry data, Grisvard offered multifamily and student housing an introduction to the generation.

Naturally, digital presence is a big factor with Gen Z, as many rely on connectivity and spend a chunk of their day on social media.

“Forty percent prefer to have high-speed internet over a working bathroom,” Grisvard said with a laugh.

The generation is heavy into volunteering for worthy causes and giving to charities, and strongly motivated by winning something. Donating money to earn some swag, she said, is cool.

Gen Z is all about being social and apartments that provide physical and cyber gathering spots will make an impact for leisure or worthwhile causes.

“They want to come together as a community,” she said. “This is the Etsy Generation.”

Apartments can make an impact on corporate social responsibility

Jen Piccotti, chief operator officer of ManagInc, says apartments can have an impact on overall corporate social responsibility by making sure employees and residents know what they care about and talking about it.

She noted that multifamily rose to the occasion when natural disasters impacted Texas, California and Oregon in the past couple of years yet didn’t really say much about it.

“We’ve had hurricanes, flooding, and in Northern California and Oregon we had horrible wildfires, and who came in to help?” she said. “A lot of people, and big part was our industry. We volunteered, brought supplies, yet we don’t talk about it that much. We should. People want to know. They want to see if you’re a match.”

She added that 84.2 percent of multifamily companies surveyed by ManagInc recently had company-organized community service events. Just the sort of thing that Gen Z relishes.

Tools like portals can be an invitation for younger renters

In addition to instilling strong corporate social responsibility, utilizing multifamily tools like community portals can help property managers attract younger renters to their properties.

In recent years, online resident portals have transformed where residents interact with each other and apartment staff. They build a sense of community by providing a place to socialize and connect with their neighbors, says Jennifer Torigoe, Industry Principal Consumer Solutions at RealPage.

“Gen Z renters expect to have the ability to connect with their community and their neighbors, and they expect that experience to be mobile and user-friendly,” she said. “Providing a feature-rich, immersive, mobile experience is a must for this generation.”

Things are changing with resident expectations, notes Grisvard. That happens when one generation moves on and another arrives. Make no bones about it, she says, Gen Z is here.

And now it’s up to multifamily companies and others listen to what the generation is saying. If not, they may be missing out.