Two generations, two different outlooks: Understanding the difference between Generation Z and Millennials

Hiring managers take note, Generation Z has arrived to take on the world of work and nothing will be the same, or will it?

shutterstock_102363214We know from our Generation Z: Agents of Change report that nearly two-thirds (63%) of HR professionals believe Gen Z will disrupt the workplace more than Generation Y. Attracting, accommodating, and retaining the next generation of emerging young talent will be one of their biggest business challenges. This is particularly true for smaller organisations and SMEs. However, if this is the boat you find yourself in, you should avoid sending out a distress flare just yet. Despite concerns that organisations are not ‘Generation Z ready’, our research also revealed that the attitudes of Gen Z are not wildly different from their predecessors, and employers are actually more ready to embrace this new cohort of workers than they believe.

The difference between Millennials and Gen Z

Employers need to stop assuming Gen Z is simply an extension of Millennials. Rather, they are their younger counterpart with their own views and expectations. Scientists may have cloned a sheep, but they’re yet to manage an entire workforce.

So, what does this mean? How can organisations better appeal to the next generation?

The Gen Z approach to work

Perhaps more so than any other generation, Gen Z are ready and willing to work hard to get where they want to be. Two things have had an impact on Gen Z’s attitude to work – the recession and education. Post-recession, they have watched their older brothers and sister struggle in a difficult jobs market and therefore they don’t expect to land their dream job straight out of university. Instead they have a much more future-focused outlook when it comes to their career ambitions. As a result, when it comes to their first job, few expect to stay with the same company for longer than 500 days. It’s important prospective employers are aware of this and can put a clear pathway of progression in place for new Gen Z recruits.

Gen Z also expects to interact with the workplace in a different way. Well over half (58%) would prefer to work in an organisation with a clear hierarchical structure. A reflection of the fact that this generation, more so than any other, has been trained to pass exams. So, while the building blocks of knowledge are there, specific on the job skill training through peer-to-peer support and mentoring will still be necessary.

Wired for distraction

Millennials may have embraced technology, but Gen Z are the true digital natives. They’re the first generation to grow up in a world surrounded by touch-screens, social media, and digital apps. This presents a number of opportunities and challenges for businesses.

On one hand, Gen Z can act as agents of change; quickly getting to grips with new tech and capable of working across multiple devices. On the other hand, being Facebook fluent and used to sharing their innermost thoughts through social media, doesn’t necessarily translate into being able to use work based communications with the same proficiency. Whilst honesty should be encouraged, there is a need to educate Gen Z on workplace etiquette and oversharing. For example, many may not know how to use Outlook, or have a complete understanding of how to draft a professional email. New recruits will have to be brought up to speed on workplace IT and guided on how to best communicate with different clients, colleagues and industry stakeholders.

Setting the bar high

Growing up with 24/7 ‘breaking news’ and instant access to media, Generation Z know what’s wrong with the world and have a strong desire to make a difference. They’ve also grown up witnessing the rise of many overnight tech successes from Uber to Airbnb, while this has inspired them to dream big, it could lead to problems further down the line if their ambitions remain unrealised. It’s important organisations work with new recruits to develop a clear career path they can follow as well as encouraging entrepreneurial thinking within the company. Fostering this way of working will give companies a competitive edge when it comes to recruiting the best talent.

It’s important hiring managers keep these points in mind, not only when it comes to hiring the next generation of talent, to ensure they get the best of the best; but also when it comes to shaping inductions and ongoing performance reviews to keep hold of this talent.

Ensure you do, and have adequate measures in place to embrace Gen Z as part of your workforce, you can keep you organisation plain sailing and have no reason to reach for that distress flare.

By Peter Donaldson, sales manager at Contingent Workforce Solutions