How Does Gen Z Compare with Millennials?

Grodnitzky, Ph.D.
June 7, 2022
What does your organization need to understand about GenZ — the youngest generation in the workforce? I break down the similarities and differences between Gen Z and Millennials. What does your organization need to understand about GenZ — the youngest generation in the workforce? I break down the similarities and differences between Gen Z and Millennials.

Over the past couple of weeks, several people in leadership roles have asked about Gen Z – the post-Millennial generation. How are they similar to Millennials? How are they different? What can we expect from them?

Millennials were born between 1982-2000. Generation Z includes those people born starting in 2001. The closing cusp of this generation is likely to be the end of the pandemic (predicted to be 2024). It is important to note several caveats regarding any description of this (or any) generation:

  1. Gen Z is just starting to come out of college.
  2. The Gen Zs I will be describing are “Cusp Babies.” They were born on the cusp of the generation that preceded them, Millennials, and, as a result, they will have some similarities as well as differences.
  3. The characteristics I will describe are the most prevalent currently, but they are likely to change as more Gen Zs enter the workforce.

Below are the top five similarities and differences that influence Millennials and Gen Z — and what business leaders need to be mindful of when recruiting, engaging and retaining these younger generations.

Similarities Between Gen Z and Millennials

  1. Urban over rural: Both Millennials and Gen Zs prefer urban over rural environments. From current data available, Millennials and Gen Z continue to move toward cities and away from rural areas.
  2. Technological natives: While older generations see technology as a tool for productivity and efficiency, both Millennials and Gen Zs have grown up using technology as an extension of themselves. These generations are called technical natives, and older generations are referred to as technical immigrants.
  3. Less education: Both Millennials and Gen Z have and will have fewer college graduates than previous generations, particularly among men. More Millennial women entered college and far more graduated because many of the men that went dropped out. Gen Zs appear to be following in the same footsteps.
  4. Flexibility is key: The pandemic intensified the already growing demand for flexibility in scheduling. While all generations crave flexibility, a lack of it is a nonstarter for younger generations. If you don’t offer flexibility, you are unlikely to successfully recruit, engage or retain younger generations.
  5. Professional development: Both Millennials and Gen Zs are looking for professional development.  The mistake I still see leaders across industries making is trying to create an antiquated corporate ladder rather than creating and leveraging your corporate lattice. Lateral moves and/or different project experiences count toward professional growth!

Differences Gen Z and Millennials

Born into: Millennials were born into a period of prosperity. Gen Zs were born into a recession. As a result, Millennials are greater risk takers and Gen Zs are much more risk averse. Similar to the prior Silent Generation (the children of the Great Depression of the 1930s), Gen Zs are likely to remain risk averse and fiscally conservative throughout their careers and lifetimes.

  1. Known for: Millennials are known for the willingness and desire to collaborate. They prefer to work in teams. Gen Zs will be known for their ethnic diversity. This generation is the leading edge of adults that will make the U.S. into a majority-minority population. By 2044, white people are predicted to become 49% of the U.S. population, while 51% will be people from minority groups.
  2. Spending style: Millennials will spend more money on something if it has real or perceived value. Gen Zs, being the children of the Great Recession, are much more price sensitive. Whether this will change remains to be seen.
  3. Communication style: Millennials’ primary form of communication has always been through digital platforms. Gen Zs are equally as comfortable with digital platforms, but at work, they seek more face-to-face communication. (Millennials aren’t rejecting face-face communication; they just don’t ask for it with the frequency that Gen Z does).  
  4. Social media:  Millennials will put everything out on social media – from favorite music to sexual hang-ups. Gen Zs care much more about privacy. So, for example, they won’t use just any texting app. They will use apps like Snap (Snapchat) or WhatsApp that are encrypted end to end.

This is just a snapshot of similarities and differences between the two youngest generations in the workforce. What will you do differently now that you have this information?

I’d love to hear your questions and comments. If you would like to discuss this topic further, just drop me a note.

Until then, let’s keep cultivating our culture, together!

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