If you haven’t noticed, Gen Z has arrived! They are the “newest” generation to enter into the workplace and will soon pass Millennials as the largest generation, with 1/3 of the world’s population. In the U.S., Gen Z accounts for more than 25% of the people and is the most diverse generation in history.
Now Gen Z is making its presence known in the workplace. Born between 1997-2015, this generation did not see a world without the internet, and for many, smartphones. Most of them do not remember 9/11 and the War on Terror. Many will remember the Great Recession, but COVID19 will be the historical event that shapes their perspective in the years ahead.
For the past decade, the workplace and marketplace focused on understanding and adapting to Millennials.
Born between 1981-1996, Millennials changed the world of work while inspiring (sometimes heated) conversations about generational differences across the globe. Millennials helped drive flexibility, collaboration, purpose, and new leadership styles in the workplace in a positive way.
Gen Z has arrived, and it’s essential to understand the differences between the two largest generations.
Optimistic Millennials vs. Pragmatic Gen Z
Millennials are optimistic in nature because they were raised during the 1990 economic boom! Millennials, like their self-esteem building Baby Boomer parents, see the world through an optimistic lens. They are often viewed as entitled, remembering the proverbial “millennial participation trophy.”
Gen Z’ers grew up amid the Great Recession. Thanks to their tough-loving, skeptical Gen X parents, Gen Z views the world with a pragmatic, independent, survival mode lens. At a young age, we were told by our Xer parents that there are winners and losers, and if you don’t work hard, you could lose.
Collaborative Millennials vs. Competitive Gen Z
When Millennials were in their formative years of learning, the Boomer mantra “Team-Work makes Dream-Work” prevailed. Collaboration was held to the highest standard. Collective group projects were the norm in schools, and team sports were played after school hours. In the workplace, Millennials have a more collaborative mindset with everyone pitching in and working together.
Gen Z likes to win! Raised by their GenX parents, they learned the mantra, “In life, there are winners and losers, and if you don’t win, you lose!” Their competitive nature applies to almost everything, from sports to school-work. In addition, Gen Z has been thrown into a competitive educational environment. Technology allows for online grading portals giving frequent updates on the Gen Z student’s academic performance. In the past, students sometimes had to wait weeks or longer to receive a test grade. Now, they get frustrated if they can’t access their scores within hours of finishing an exam—and often so do the parents.
72% of Gen Z said they are competitive with those doing the same job in the workplace. This generation is highly independent and wants to be evaluated on their own merits, not that of the team. That said, they prefer individual tasks over team tasks.
Millennials Seek Fulfilment vs. Gen Z Financially Focused
Millennials were all about finding meaning in their jobs and how best to make the world a better place. So much that, according to a study by CONE, millennials prefer a company that gives them the chance to drive meaningful progress over one that offers a higher paycheck. This study was done when the economy was booming, and a strong economy gives people flexibility in selecting job opportunities. COVID19 may change their preferences.
With Gen Z coming of age during the recession, they put money and job security at the top of the list. Sure, they want to make a difference, but surviving and thriving take priority.
Right now, compensation overrides workplace satisfaction and engagement. Money is the key driver, along with healthcare benefits and other perks.
During this pandemic, smart companies are incorporating financial education in their online tools for their employees to access. Money is top of mind for this generation and possible for all the others. Gen Z is concerned – Are they making enough? Saving enough? Can they pay back their college loans? Will they ever have enough money to buy a car? Or a house? We are discovering that Gen Zers and now, possibly even Millennials, are savers.