What’s the Difference Between the Millennial Generation and Generation Z?

Evan Hackel

What’s the difference between Millennials and Generation Z?

Everyone seems to be asking that question  – business owners, top corporate executives, middle managers and just about everyone else.

If you have been asking it too, this article will provide some It is adapted from my upcoming book Ingaging Leadership Meets the Younger Generations, soon to be released by Motivational Press.

Realistic vs. Optimistic

Members of Generation Z are more realistic, vs. the more optimist millennial generation. The millennial generation lived through more prosperous period of time. Generation Z on the other hand, had the experience of the great recession and saw their parents either lose their jobs or be worried about their jobs. That made them the more pessimistic.

Generation Z expects to work harder than the millennial generation, as a result of living through the great recession. This will also cause them to be more risk-averse when making career choices.

Digital Natives vs. Digital Pioneers

Millennials lived through the arrival of the technology age. They witnessed the beginnings of social media, instant messaging, search engines and smart phones. Generation Z, on the other hand, was born into it. They never knew a life other than one of interactive and interconnected community. For Generation Z, technology is not a “nice to have.” It is a “need to have.”  For example, a Pew Research study  found that 40% of Generation Z would prefer to work in an environment without a bathroom than to work in without the Internet.

Private vs. Public

The millennial generation experimented with social media loved Facebook and shared perhaps too much of their lives. Generation Z, on the other hand, witnessed that overexposure and is very cautious of sharing too much information online. In fact, most of Generation Z is either not on Facebook or is on Facebook in a fairly minimal way. They prefer Instagram and Snapchat, which offer story-telling using images rather than words.

So Generation Z is far more private than the millennial generation

On-Demand Learning vs. Formal Education

The millennial generation experienced a more traditional and formal education. Generation Z, on the other hand, utilizes tools like Wikipedia, search engines and YouTube to find out information. This is help them develop skills of learning on-demand. This will come in handy for them in the workplace. When they don’t know something, they will feel comfortable discovering and learning what they need to know.

Team Players vs. Individuals

Generation Z’s far greater interactivity via the Internet enables them to play with friends literally from around the world while at home and alone. That has made Generation Z the far greater team players when compared to the millennial generation.

Let’s look at benefits of the Younger Generations on the workforce.

Younger Generations Bring Beautiful Diversity and Varied Perspectives

Today’s millennial workforce is comprised of smart young professionals who come from every part of North America, and from other countries that are located just about everywhere. Taken in sum, Younger Generations are a wonderfully varied group.

You could hire a consulting firm to help you decode how all members of all those groups are thinking. But if you hire Younger Generations, you don’t have to. Their valuable perspectives are right there under the same roof with you.

Younger Generations Have Marketplace Knowledge You Need to Succeed

Whatever services or products you sell, most Younger Generations can provide you with the latest intelligence about what is taking place in your industry . . .

  • What do consumers think about your products and your brand?
  • How does your company compare to your competitors?
  • What are the biggest trends in your industry today?
  • What companies are the leaders in your sector, and why?
  • How do Younger Generations make buying decisions?
  • How and when do Younger Generations become loyal customers?
  • Do Younger Generations still want to purchase homes and cars, go to college, and engage in other activities that were “givens” among members of older generations? Or have they changed?
  • What lessons can you learn and apply from cutting-edge companies like Uber, Amazon.com, and Google? Many Younger Generations can give you critical insights that you need.

Viewed from those perspectives, it becomes obvious your Younger Generation workers are one of your company’s most valuable assets. Are you treating them that way?

Younger Generations Create a Culture of Learning in Your Organization

 You probably think that Younger Generations are the “tech generation.” That might be true, but even moreso, they are the generation that learns. One reason is that many of them were in college not that long ago, and learning is part of their DNA. Another is that they are part of a generation that has needed to adapt and adjust to major – and at times cataclysmic – change. Over just the last few decades, that change has included the arrival of dramatic new technologies like the Internet, new social outlooks, the changing demographics of the American population, as well as the time in office of America’s first African-American president.

That is a lot of change for one cohort to absorb. Doing so has uniquely prepared Younger Generations to adapt to change. Clearly, a workforce that learns in that way can equip any organization for success. Hopefully, that success will be yours.

Younger Generations Bring an Entrepreneurial Outlook to Your Company

Members of older generations generally waited before trying new things. In contrast, Younger Generations like to take risks, act independently, move ahead, take ownership of their work, and get things done. To unlock the benefits of those outlooks, try to lead them in these ways . . .

  • Have the courage to let them take risks.
  • Cut rules and restrictive red tape that cripple ingenuity and ambition.
  • Instead of using traditional reporting relationships. create multifunctional task forces of people from different parts of your organization – teams of energetic young Younger Generations.
  • Reward Younger Generations, thank them, and let them move right on to new challenges. In general, Younger Generations want to keep moving forward instead of looking back at what they have accomplished in the past.

Younger Generations Encourage Good Succession Planning

Who is going to run your company in 10, 20 or 25 years? You could hire a management consulting firm to help you create a succession plan. But if you hire, retain and promote a superior younger workforce, you won’t need to.

A thriving workforce made up of Younger Generation employees can act like a living, growing succession plan – possibly one that you never need to write down.

Are you welcoming Younger Generations to your organization and embracing all the good they bring? Or are you letting flawed misconceptions and prejudices stand in your way?

Ultimately, the decision is up to you. But if you would like your organization to succeed, I hope you will make the right one.


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