All HR and marketing eyes have turned to Generation Z, which includes those who were born roughly between 1996 and 2010.
Most of these children and young adults are still attending school, making them a focal point for companies that are seeing talent shortages for certain jobs. Members of Gen Z are still young enough for teachers to shape their educational experience and, hopefully, better prepare them for those open positions. Nonprofits and foundations are also keeping an eye on Gen Z to influence the causes that matter to them. Gen Z, after all, is made up of our country’s future donors, fundraisers, and activists.
As organizations have begun focusing on members of this young generation, a few things have become clear: Gen Zers are cynical of government and big business, they’re active volunteers, they value authenticity and philanthropy, and they expect companies to support the causes they care about.
And while they’re distrustful of corporate America and the U.S. political system — even more so than previous generations — they seem to respect the opinions of parents and teachers. That is precisely why marketers should engage with teachers to reach this young audience.
3 Ways to Engage With Gen Z Through Teachers
Most of the children and young adults who make up Gen Z spend the majority of their time in school. Whether they admit it or not, teachers are at the center of Gen Z’s world. Educators spend six or more hours a day with young people, they write the curriculum, and they steer conversations in the classroom.
In fact, in a recent Gen Z market poll, students told MDR that teachers are more influential than anyone else — even parents — when it comes to making decisions about what classes to take, what subject they should major in, and what professions they should consider. Lower-income students are even more likely to say that teachers are their most important influence when it comes to shaping their career interests and their class selections.
If organizations want to reach members of this young audience, shape their career paths, and spark their interest in nonprofit causes, they have to engage with teachers as well. Here are three ways you can do that:
- Offer engaging educational materials that teachers can use in class. By the time students reach high school, it’s often too late to spark their interest in a specific subject area. Hand2mind, a company that sells math products, understands this. The company recently held a Facebook Live event on the WeAreTeachers Facebook page to offer tips and tricks teachers can use to make math more fun and engaging for younger students.
In 2017, Quizlet surveyed 13- to 24-year-olds about the future of work, and only one-third of young women and one-fourth of young men feel equipped for future career prospects. Building interest in STEM is critical if companies want to be able to fill the talent gaps they’re experiencing in these more technical fields. But this kind of engagement doesn’t just stoke student interest in STEM; it also attracts the interest of teachers, who are continually looking for new and more effective ways to help students learn.
- Provide opportunities for students to volunteer. Sixty percent of Gen Zers want their jobs to change the world for the better, and 49 percent of teens volunteer at least once a month. Gen Z is hungry for opportunities to do good, and corporations and nonprofits are providing avenues for young people to do that.
For example, the Allstate Foundation encourages youth activism with its Good Starts Young program. In 2016 alone, nearly 2 million young people participated in the program. And in 2017, youth teams from across the country competed for a $10,000 grant by identifying the toughest social issues and developing innovative solutions. The winners created a nonprofit called Closet2Closet. Noting that “clothes inspire confidence,” they provide foster and homeless children with on-trend, age-appropriate clothes and other personal items. By teaming up with partners like MDR and WeAreTeachers, Allstate is reaching teacher influencers so it can be more effective in empowering youth to make a real difference.
- Encourage physical fitness and overall well-being. Teachers care deeply about their students — and that goes beyond the information they’re teaching in the classroom. Teachers want their students to be physically fit, eat healthily, manage stress in constructive ways, and steer clear of drugs and alcohol, and they tend to favor companies and organizations that share these values.
Many organizations already impact the health and wellness of children through cause marketing and philanthropic work. Sanford Health, for example, has built a robust program — Fit4Schools — that helps K-8 teachers learn how to encourage their students to live healthier lives before, during, and after school.
Gen Z is getting older and beginning to enter the workforce, so organizations have no time to lose when it comes to engaging with this generation while they’re in school. By targeting teachers, you not only provide great educational opportunities for use in the classroom, but you also influence Gen Z.