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The Workforce is Changing. Are you Prepared?

As Baby Boomers retire, the workforce will be compiled of Millennials (1984-1995) and Generation Z (1996-2010). The influx of Millennials and the dawn of the internet changed the workplace environment and culture dramatically. However, now employers must consider the needs of a new generation.

Millennials and Gen Z do share many characteristics, but they are also very different…and it all stems from how they grew up. Millennials are in a unique position having lived in both an analog and digital world. They spent a big portion of their childhood without the internet, but then had to adjust to it as it became mainstream. Gen Z, on the other hand, has never experienced a world without the internet. They grew up with constant connectivity, cell phones, and social media. Their childhood looked very different from previous generations and with that came some significant differences in how they live their life. Let’s take a look at some characteristics that you may not have considered.

Spending Money

The rise of consumerism with the internet led Millennials and Gen Z to become very different consumers. They expect convenience and plenty of information to make an educated decision. Both generations take the time to learn about the brands they’re buying from as the information is readily available.2 But the way these generations spend their money is quite different. Again, it goes back to their childhood. Millennials were raised during an economic boom and tend to be idealistic. In contrast, Gen Z saw their parents face the recession in 2008 and fear falling into the same trap. Because of this, they tend to be much more realistic. They are more frugal, avoid debt, and save for the future. These childhood experiences also made Gen Z put a lot of value on security – and thus are very salary-focused and loyal to employers that provide security.

The Impact of Technology

Since both Millennials and Gen Z came into adulthood connected to the internet, their view on the world varies significantly from previous generations.

  1. Due to the constant influx of information, both generations have a very short attention span. Pew Research estimates the average attention span for Millennials to be 12 seconds, only 4 seconds more than the Gen Z.
  2. A good outcome of the short attention span and constant barrage of information is that both generations tend to be better than those before them at multitasking – especially Gen Z-ers.
  3. Both generations are very tech-savvy, which is a huge plus in a world where a large majority of jobs require computer skills. Again, Gen Z has an edge on their Millennial counterparts as they have used technology as long as they can remember.
  4. The pace of life sped up with the increase of technology, especially as on-demand entertainment and streaming became more popular. Both generations expect convenience and options and tend to get frustrated with waiting. They also expect to be entertained – everything, including school, is expected to be an experience.

The Rise of the Individual

The world became smaller as the internet connected people around the globe — exposing individuals to many more cultures. This exposure led younger generations to encourage a more open-minded, inclusive culture. People value authenticity and bettering themselves. They are also motivated to teach themselves. With Google and YouTube readily available, Millennials and Gen Z take advantage of the resources to improve their skills.

An additional trend with significant impact is the rise of influencers. Their influence encourages people to value the opinions of real people over celebrities, resulting in a decrease in effectiveness in traditional advertising methods. They even expect personalized marketing through multiple channels and expect companies to build relationships to drive sales. The influencer revolution has another incredible result. Gen Z is more entrepreneurial than any generation before them.3 They see regular people build their businesses online and want to do the same. They also seek out opportunities to find the next “Instagram-worthy moment.” While many researchers feel that imagination has greatly decreased with the increased use of technology, content generation begins at a young age. Their creativity just looks a great deal different.

A Deeper Appreciation for Culture and the Environment

While a lack of understanding about the impact of pollution may be to blame for older generations, many people believe that the increase in education available about climate change and sustainability led these generations to care deeply about their world.1 The younger generations also tend to be much more passionate about causes they believe in, though many believe that it’s just a cultural change. In the past, children were taught to be careful about sharing things that were contrary to public opinion (the old adage of “don’t rock the boat”). But with social media, this is now encouraged. People’s opinions are shared regularly and sometimes even go viral. Since the behavior was rewarded, people are now more willing to share opinions publicly. The passion around ethics affects their buying decision as well. More than any other generation, Millennials and Gen Z-ers look at the ethics of companies when making decision to buy. No longer is purchasing just about quality, which has pushed companies to focus more on diversity and inclusion as well as giving back to the communities in which they operate.

What Does this Mean for Employers?

The newer generations and the rise of technology brings a lot of good, but change is always difficult. Organizations must look at what these generations value and how they can support them to do their best work. Seemingly small things such as a focus on sustainability as well as diversity and inclusion are a good start. Just as important is to arm your managers with the training they need to adequately coach their direct reports. They must learn about them as people and what motivates them. And don’t expect it to be the same for everyone – their needs are as different as their backgrounds, so learn how to ask the right questions and be agile in your coaching approach to bring the most potential out of your team!


Beall, George. “8 Key Differences between Gen Z and Millennials.” Huff Post. Verizon Media, 5 Nov. 2016, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/8-key-differences-between_b_12814200.

Claveria, Kelvin. “Unlike Millennials: 5 Ways Gen Z Differs from Gen Y.” VisionCritical. 24 Apr. 2019, https://www.visioncritical.com/blog/gen-z-versus-millennials-infographics.

Fong, Jim, et al. “An Insider’s Guide to Generation Z and Higher Education.” University Professional and Continuing Education Association, 2019, https://upcea.edu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Generation-Z-eBook-Version-4.pdf.

Francis, Tracy and Fernanda Hoefel. “‘True Gen’: Generation Z and its Implications for Companies.” McKinsey & Company. Nov. 2018, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/consumer-packaged-goods/our-insights/true-gen-generation-z-and-its-implications-for-companies.

Parker, Kim, et al. “Generation Z Looks a Lot like Millennials on Key Social and Political Issues.” Pew Research Center. 17 Jan. 2019, https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/01/17/generation-z-looks-a-lot-like-millennials-on-key-social-and-political-issues/.

Patel, Deep. “8 Ways Generation Z Will Differ from Millennials in the Workplace.” Forbes. 21 Sept. 2017, https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/09/21/8-ways-generation-z-will-differ-from-millennials-in-the-workplace/.

“Recruiting Gen Z vs. Millennials: 5 Differences to Learn.” Dice. 7 Oct. 2019, https://insights.dice.com/employer-resource-center/recruiting-gen-z-vs-millennials-5-differences-learn/.

Young, Heike. “How Millennials and Gen Z are Different.” Salesforce.com. Oct. 2017, https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2017/10/how-millennials-and-gen-z-are-different.html.