Millennials vs. Gen Z in the Workplace

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Posted by: David Garcia May 27, 2024

As the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers get closer and closer to retirement, the spotlight has begun to shine on the younger generations, who are quickly paving a path all their own. Millennials and Gen Z collectively make up more than 40% of the US population and are slowly but surely taking over the reins of the workforce. 

Unlike past years, where people lived to work, there has been a generational shift to focus on more of a work-life balance. That being said, the differences between Millennials and Gen Z workers are notable and should be considered when hiring new employees. 

How do these generational differences translate in the workplace? What is the difference between a Millennial and a Gen Z’er regarding work ethic and education? These are all essential things to pay attention to during the hiring process and will help you target your interview questions to get the answers you seek.

If you are an employer trying to better understand how these generational differences may impact the hiring process, we’re here to help. Below, we’ll break down the most notable differences between these two unique generations and how they relate to the workplace.

Who Is a Millennial?

Of the two generations we’ll be discussing, Millennials represent a slightly older and more sizeable population. USA Today defines them as “Millennials are anyone born from 1981 to 1996.” This generation makes up 21.67% of the United States population and represents a larger majority of the current workforce than Gen Z.

Millennial Characteristics

  • Collaborative and enjoy working for the greater good
  • Good with change, though enjoys stability 
  • Highly educated, most having a bachelor’s degree or higher

Who Is a Gen Zer?

Gen Z’ers, on the other hand, are a bit newer to the workforce. In fact, most Gen Z’ers are only just getting started in their careers, having graduated from high school and college within the last decade. Members of this generation would have been born between 1997 and 2012, making them the youngest members of the growing workforce.

Gen Z Characteristics

  • Hardworking though individualistic
  • Usually has a “do-it-myself” attitude toward most things
  • Grew up with all sorts of technology at their fingertips

Millennials vs. Gen Z: Key Differences

Community vs. Independence

Millennials were raised in a time when it was more common to rely on others to get from point A to B. Gen Z’ers, on the other hand, tend to find ways to do things on their own, no matter how ostracizing it may be. 

Take, for example, the self-checkout options at many retailers and grocery stores. Instead of having to interact with anyone, a member of the Gen Z generation will consistently opt for the quick and easy route without having to hold a conversation. On the other hand, millennials may be more inclined to take a few moments out of their day and chat with the local cashier. 

Of course, there are members of each generation that may sway a different way, but the overarching trends show these habits to be true. 

Social Media Use

While it’s next to impossible to escape social media no matter what generation you’re from, different generations have varying perspectives toward its hold on society. 

Millennials are old enough to remember a time when social media wasn’t around. Flip phones were the talk of the town, and most of the popular search engines were still in their infancy. Gen Z, on the other hand, typically won’t remember a time when they couldn’t log on to check their email or post about the latest and greatest on their social feeds. 

The impact of social media is astounding and has greatly influenced smartphone and technology use among both generations. Gen Z will likely go down as the generation that’s constantly connected to the internet, especially considering they were raised on it. Millennials are a bit more rooted in reality, though they have not escaped social media’s day-to-day impact.

Concerns on Cyber Security 

Millennials have been around a bit longer to see the deep-rooted fear many Americans have of online security and privacy protection. This makes them a bit more skeptical about online usage and more cautious about online transactions of any variety. 

Gen Z tends to be less cautious when it comes to online security. Most feel that there’s not much to be done about data privacy and would rather keep doing things the way they’ve been doing them than worry about what may be collected without their permission.

Both generations are heavily connected to the online environment, whether for work or social purposes. They’re better versed than the older generations, which makes them more aware of how to spot scams before they happen.

Spending Habits

Though Millennials have a few more years of work under their belt, it’s interesting to see how the different generations choose to spend their hard-earned money. Millennials are a bit quicker to spend their cash than Gen Z’ers. Many Gen Z’er are more interested in investing their money and building their savings at a younger age than Millennials. 

Millennials have a bit more expendable income and are the second-highest spending generation after Gen X. Gen Z, on the other hand, have a little less to go around as they’re earlier in their careers and are more often living paycheck to paycheck due to rising living costs.

Trusting or Skeptical?

While both generations share a bit of skepticism, Gen Z’ers are likelier to be more distrustful. This means that they’ll do their research before making a purchase or dive deep into the internet to learn everything before making a firm decision. 

Millennials are more trusting. While they may still take the time to do a bit of research, they’re more likely to believe what’s told to them and go along with whatever the general consensus may be.

How Do Millennials and Gen Z Differ in the Workplace?

Hiring new employees has now taken on a whole new level. With the generational gap widening by the minute, it’s important to acknowledge the differing aspects of the varying age groups and prepare for ways to empathize with each in a leadership role. 

The age-old question any employer wants to answer is how these generational differences apply to the workplace. Whether you are recruiting new Gen Z or Millenial employees, it’s important to consider these generational differences. 

Overseeing different generations is a skill you must acquire by learning how Millennials and Gen Z’ers work and how they like to be managed. Here are some of the more notable differences you should be aware of in how these generations function in a work environment.

Stability vs. Dream Career

While everyone would love to work in their dream job, it’s not always a priority. Gen Z’ers, however, tend to disagree. 

In recent years, Gen Z’ers have made it very clear that they’d rather take a pay cut and work at a job they absolutely loved than make more money at a job that was making them miserable. 

Millennials are a bit more focused on the stability a job offers and are more inclined to stick it out even if it isn’t dream job material.

Work Environment

As more jobs become fully remote or hybrid, it’s clear that the generations have shown a preference for different work environments. 

Millennials typically prefer the office setting. This collaborative environment allows them to work with their team and gain a sense of community with their coworkers. Gen Z, however, is more inclined to choose a fully remote or hybrid setting. 

This is likely due to their upbringing and the challenges they faced when the pandemic took over. For the time being, everything was forced into an online environment, though Gen Z seems to prefer it and has opted to work for companies that allow them to work from home.

Recognizing Achievement

As an employer, learning to recognize achievement is incredibly important and will vary from employee to employee. Age plays a huge role in how people prefer to be acknowledged when they have done an excellent job. 

As stated above, millennials are collaborative. They like to work toward the greater good and are okay with achieving an achievement as a team rather than an individual. Gen Z’ers could not be more different. 

The younger generation has definitely swayed toward independence. This age group loves to feel recognized for their sole contributions and efforts to the company. Gen Z’ers are typically high-output employees, though they may tend to stay a bit quieter and choose to work alone rather than with others.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Is Gen Z Different From Other Generations in the Workplace?

Gen Z is the youngest generation to enter the workforce. This generation is more focused on individual achievement than previous generations and will move from job to job if necessary to reach their goals.

Does Gen Z Work Harder Than Millennials?

Gen Z’ers are heavily motivated when individual growth opportunities present themselves. They’re more inclined to leave a position if they don’t feel they’re getting the proper recognition for a well-done job.

What Percentage of Millennials and Gen Z Are in the Workplace?

Gen Z and Millenials currently make up about 40% of the workforce. That being said, Gen Z will continue to infiltrate the workforce in the coming years, and with older generations beginning to retire, that percentage will only continue to grow.

Final Thoughts

Learning the ins and outs of the Millennial and Gen Z generations can give you a great understanding of how to best manage your employees, no matter their age. 

If you’re in the hiring process and looking to hire only the best of the best, look no further than our background screening services. Our process is in-depth and designed to help you vet out the best candidate for your team. Reach out to request a quote today.

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