Still Adjusting to Millennials? Well, Get Ready for Generation Z

As the Millennials populate the workforce, employers are looking at the next wave of employees – Generation Z.

Born after 1994, Gen Zs are different from their predecessors in a number of ways.

While the Millennials grew up with the World Wide Web, Gen Z grew up with social media and smart phones. However, Gen Zs are discriminating users of social media and favor more visually engaging platforms that accommodate their eight-second attention span.

Prudent and pragmatic

A new global study, Gen Y and Gen Z Workplace Expectations, co-produced by Millennial Branding and Randstad, shows a generation more rooted in prudent and pragmatic notions about how work gets done and what’s needed to succeed than its predecessors.

“Gen Zs have a clear advantage over Millennials because they appear to be more realistic, are likely to be more career-minded, and can quickly adapt to new technology to work more effectively,” says Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding. “Also, Gen Zs have seen how much their parents have struggled in the recession, so they come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

The mind-set of Gen Z was shaped by nearly a decade of war and economic uncertainty, and they graduated from high school just as the economy was on the verge of collapse. Now, they’re entering the workforce amidst constrained resources, increased requirements placed on workers, fewer promised rewards and an overall climate of lower expectations for nearly everyone.

What the Gen Z study shows

Key takeaways from the study show Gen Zs:

  • Have even more of an entrepreneurial spirit than Millennials and want to be hands-on with projects;
  • Are most motivated by opportunities for advancement, followed by more money and meaningful work;
  • Are mature, self-directed, resourceful and dedicated to making a difference in the world;
  • Expect to switch employers several times in their careers, but less often than Millennials;
  • Have a preference for human connections and face-to-face communications;
  • Want to collaborate in a team, with managers listening to their ideas and valuing their opinions;
  • Find some technology distracting, but like to work with it to help them accomplish their goals;
  • Don’t especially like to multi-task or work in a fast-paced environment.

Adjusting to a new generation

“They witnessed homes being foreclosed, so they’re going to be savers, realistic about how things get done and how hard they’re going to have to work to get them done,” says Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America. “Which will make them more open to new ideas and ways of doing things” and even less inclined to adapt to a hierarchical environment than Millennials.

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From day one, Gen Zs are bumping up against a crowded field of “career-delayed” Millennials and plenty of older workers who themselves have had career setbacks and are now competing with younger workers for entry-level jobs. However, as long as Gen Zs have the same chance to succeed as everyone else, all will be well with them.

Expect this population segment to gain a lot more attention as it becomes more influential, represents more revenue to brands, and more challenges – and opportunities – for employers.

This study provides an insightful picture of what employers can use to motivate, drive and inspire this new generation as part of their overall recruitment and retention strategy.

A different version of this was originally published on the OC Tanner blog.

Named as one of the Ten Best and Brightest Women in the incentive industry and to the Employee Engagement Power 100 list, a Change Maker, Top Idea Maven, and President’s Award winner, Michelle is a highly accomplished international speaker, author, and strategist on performance improvement. A respected authority on leadership, workplace culture, talent and employee engagement, she’s a trusted advisor to many of the world’s most successful organizations and the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States.

Michelle speaks and writes about what she knows first-hand – as a former executive of a Fortune 100 global conglomerate, and as a researcher and strategist. She passionately shares new insights and tools for leaders to confidently, effectively and strategically lead their organizations to success.

Michelle is the Past President of the FORUM for People Performance at Northwestern University and President Emeritus of the Incentive Marketing Association. Michelle was the Founder and Chair of the Editorial Board of Return on Performance Magazine, and has been featured on Fox Television, the BBC, in Fortune, Business Week, Inc. and other global publications, and contributed to the books Bull Market by Seth Godin, Contented Cows Still Give Better Milk, and Social Media Isn’t Social.   




38 Comments on “Still Adjusting to Millennials? Well, Get Ready for Generation Z

  1. Very interesting, this just shows that we can never stop looking for new strategies for engaging the workforce, as the employees’ needs constantly evolve! It’s interesting to read about some degree of scepticism towards distracting technology -it’s completely natural that the new generation is not past the stage of fascination with all things tech and start questioning what’s actually useful. The best technology will compliment ongoing communication and improve the flow of team collaboration without being a distraction…

  2. Millennials were born 1980 to 2000. The first non-milennial cohort are all freshman in high school right now.

    You’re mixing up the first half of the milennial boom with the second half. Not that I’d argue with your assertions of those born 1990 and later, as someone who’s born in 89, I identify moreso with this paradigm than with the other “millenial” paradigm that people have produced.

    1. Agreed. Gen X was so named because they weren’t understood, not because they were the 24th generation. I suppose the generation after Z will be genearation AA.

  3. It’s funny I was born in 1985 and really don’t identify with any of the negative stereotypes associated with “millennials”, very few of my friends do either. It’s just another way to keep people down and make up excuses for not hiring them. People don’t fit nicely into these stupid bubbles they want you to.
    I’m a veteran, a father, a husband, millennial, and educated person who works hard and tries to right by people. Sometimes I get frustrated and annoyed with people but who doesn’t? I refuse to put in a box of negativity like “generation Y” or millennial. What generation was perfect? All have their flaws and in a lot of ways we are moving in the right direction in spite of some amongst the older generations attempting to hinder that.

    1. Marketers don’t care about the individual. A lot of millennials don’t agree with being pigeonholed into a single category then described like their entire life trajectory is going in a single direction. (I’m born in 1979, but to some marketers, I’m in the Millennial bus because I had the Internet in High School. There’s no “cusps” with these people because that would overcomplicate their jobs: to tell advertisers who to sell to.)

      Marketing and Astrology have a lot of similarities, I’ve noticed. Defy the category. To hell with them.

    2. Agreed. I was born in 1987. I know that I’m far from perfect and don’t deserve everything handed to me on a silver platter. The majority of my friends are in the same boat. We live a balanced life. We work hard and play hard. We are educated and have reliable jobs. We pay our mortgages on time and put money in savings every month. None of us are super stars but we are decent contributing members of society.

      It’s really rare where I live to meet a stereotypical whining Millennial who lives in their parent’s basement and expects to be making 6 figures right after graduating college with a liberal arts degree and $100,000 of debt. Yet, I read about this scenario almost every day in the news. The generalizing definitely has to stop!

      1. Apparently y’all don’t live in “trendy” cities. Try living in San Francisco, New York, Portland, Miami, Chicago or LA. Having managed staff in all of those locations the stereotypes, on the whole, hold true. Not every Millenial is the stereotype, don’t get me wrong.
        If it’s true that the Millenials in other cities aren’t that way, I breathe a sigh of relief!

  4. I am wondering if the article refers to Generation Z in other countries, because here in America, most Generation Z people that I meet do not like to work, but stay engaged in video games, text messages, and posting their pictures all over the Internet, and live for free to avoid paying rent, buying a car, buy grocercies, and so forth.

    1. That might be because you are hanging out where those type of people hang out. Like on street corners begging for change. Or at Starbucks. Maybe you should reassess your role in your interactions with a select group of underachieving people.

    2. I personally am not aware of any generation that actually likes to work as a general rule. Most people work because they have to.

  5. If they’re using ‘Z’ to identify this generation, does this mean it’s the last generation – by using the last letter of the our alphabet? 🙂

  6. Sorry but you lost me at “self-directed”. This Gen Z needs constant handholding and coddling and would never survive on their own.

  7. How do you know ANY of these things? Most of these “gen z”‘rs are not even teenagers yet. Wow, talk about making things up as you go along.

  8. I’ve done some research around generation ZZZ, they are defined as conception through 9 months of age and still in the uterus. They are 100% dependent on their mother…talk about lazy.

  9. So, somehow the fact you are born on a particular year determines your modus operandi? Way to generalize people based on something arbitrary that one has no control over.

  10. What I want to know is what happened to Generation Y? Growing up, this was the generation I was thrown into. Today, it seems to no longer exist and instead, my age bracket gets thrown in with either Generation X or the Millennials.

  11. Anyone else get the feeling that they just keep using the same articles and just changing around the generation names? I’m pretty sure they accused millenials of having the same attention span not that long ago.

    It’s AGE, not GENERATION that determines 90% of what people are talking about in these articles.

  12. Doesn’t anyone care at all about the Generation X?? I understand that we are the least numbered group out of all the generations, but come on.. we are in deep sh** right now..

    1. Most aborted generation ever! (Will the Baby Boomers finally retire now so we can move up and have decent jobs like our parents did at our age… well, our age 10 years ago?)

  13. As someone who was born in 1985, I promise you I didn’t grow up with the internet. In fact, as my father worked as a computer programmer, I was one of the few who grew up with computers…so please, don’t lump me as the same person my 20 year old sister is…

  14. Funny, the description of the Generation Zers actually reminds me a lot of those of us that graduated from HS in the early 80’s. Other than the tech, which, of course we didn’t grow up with but had to learn to adapt to quickly (they certainly have a heads up on that one), it sounds like they could be our next great generation.

  15. Just the other day I received an email from Ricoh entitled “Tips for working with Millennials.” I found this offensive as well as this article. I’m supposedly a Millennial (born in 1985), and have worked very hard since I was a teenager. Shortly after graduating from high school, I joined the military and have been fending for myself and my family since. I work hard for what I have, and work alongside my husband who’s also a “Millennial” to provide for our family. He too has worked hard since his teenage years. Neither of us have debt, work full time, and have never asked for handouts from the government or our families. As a matter of fact, we’re constantly trying to claw our way up the food chain just to “get by” and constantly get frustrated with “older” generations who think they know everything, are very resistant to change, and don’t want to give us “young whippersnappers” a chance to succeed. So please, stop labeling generations based on age alone… doesn’t mean a hill of beans.

  16. So.. millennials have in general failed so bad at being adults.. the country is already looking beyond them to the next gen. Look at all the things they say Z is.. its like the exact opposite they said of Millennials. Almost like the writer has hope GEN Z will fix our country. How sad for the Millennials.On a secondary note.. I had thought the next generation was Digital By Birth … or DBB .. not gen Z.

  17. They don’t realize that while teamwork is useful when project specific too much of it slows things down. C’mon break away from the team and get the stones up to show me what you can do on your own. You’ll have a better chance at a promotion and the rest of the team won’t get a trophy.

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