7 Differences Between Generation Z and Millennials Entering The Workforce

by Matt Stewart

Employers will have to adjust to another new generation.

There’s a new generation in town and it’s one that employers better get ready for—because it’s 23 million strong and will be flooding the workforce by the end of the decade. Ladies and gentlemen, meet Generation Z: a confidence-filled group that doesn’t want to miss a thing, has the shortest attention span of any generation on record, and isn’t quite as open as its predecessors—the Millennials—from whom they learned that not everything needs to be shared online.

If you try to treat those in Generation Z (born in the mid to late ‘90s, mostly to Generation X parents) like you treated Millennials (born in the early ‘80s to mid ‘90s, mostly to Baby Boomer parents), it will backfire on you. This generation is unique. And now they are starting to enter the workforce.

Thanks to my role offering internships that help undergraduate students gain real-life business management experience, I have gained a firsthand look at both the Millennials and Generation Z. And there certainly are differences between the two:

  1. You won’t find Generation Z frequenting Facebook or Twitter as much as their predecessors, according to bestselling author and generations expert David Stillman. Keenly aware of software monitoring, they are more likely to share their worlds on apps like Snapchat or Instagram. Often dubbed “digital natives,” Millennials are much more likely to share their lives in the open on platforms such as Facebook.
  2. Being culturally connected is more important to those in Generation Z than to Millennials, with more Gen Zers suffering from FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) than Millennials. However, I don’t see this as a hard and fast rule. The experience Generation Z employees have had at my business—and the impact they pride themselves on having—is often the opposite of FOMO.
  3. Keeping the attention of a Gen Zer is harder than ever, according to Stillman. Generation Z has grown up with smartphones and tablets, 3-D, 4-D and 360-degree photography, just to name a few of their norms. Their average attention span is eight seconds, compared to the 12-second attention span of Millennials.
  4. Generation Z finds encouragement from parents who encourage independent thinking, while Millennials are driven to succeed by helicopter parents who watch their every move. Gen Z parents want their children to achieve on their own—and are fed up with not receiving equal pay for equal success at work.
  5. Social entrepreneurship is important to Generation Z, a group that is driven to volunteer and choose a career in which they can make a difference. On the other hand, there are those who hope the Millennials will become more civic-minded as they grow older, but it’s something that hasn’t been witnessed as much yet.
  6. Generation Z children were raised in classrooms that focused on diversity and collaboration. Despite this fact, they tend to be more private than Millennials, perhaps as a result of seeing many of the downfalls of previous generations during the Great Recession.
  7. Generation Z feels pressure to gain corporate experience early, so they are competing with Millennials, who are more likely to wait to gain that same type of experience. The good news for Millennials, who are more likely to chase jobs in the corporate world, is that 72 percent of Generation Z wish to take what they learn and apply it to their own business, versus 64 percent of Millennials who have the same goal. iBi

Matt Stewart is cofounder of College Works Painting, which provides real-world business experience for thousands of college students each year. For more information, visit collegeworks.com.

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