How Millennials and Gen Zers Approach Work
Different can be a scary word, immediately conjuring fear of change. But different doesn't mean better or worse - sometimes it's just...different. Understanding HOW Millennials and Gen Z team members approach work is the first step to keeping pace with the ever-changing methods of how work gets done.
Over the past decade, the media has been filled with facts and theories about generational differences in the workplace. After all, 56 million millennials are now working and, by 2025, they’ll represent 75 percent of the workforce. Enter Gen Z too! They now comprise about 25 percent of the population and are starting to graduate and get jobs.
If you think that these groups are simply a bunch of entitled spiked seltzer swilling slackers, you are totally off-base! Each of these groups has distinct and powerful attitudes towards work, including their work habits, values, and long-term goals. Although older workers are currently retiring at record rates, close to 50 million Boomers and members of the Silent Generation still hold jobs. That means we’re living in an era where generations in the workplace must co-exist, learn new skills, and collaborate. And, most importantly, overcome perceptions and biases about each other’s abilities and work styles. So, how do we all navigate this eclectic and evolving work world, especially as the pandemic has made remote work and hybrid business structures commonplace?
Generation Characteristics: Myth or Reality?
Generalizing about any group -- demographic or otherwise -- can lead to discrimination. But many studies have revealed clear differences in how millennials and Gen Z workers approach their jobs. A recent study of more than 300K millennials revealed five key things that are most meaningful to this generation in the workplace. They are:
- Personal meaning and fair pay: As this generation ages, the need for both fulfilling jobs and the ability to handle personal financial obligations becomes stronger. Throwing a bonus at a millennial may be meaningless, if the job or company they’re in doesn’t have some individual meaning to them.
- Employee Benefits: Benefits beyond maternity and paternity leave are important to this sector. Elder and pet care are common responsibilities and workers expect their employers to acknowledge that. Babies and fur babies are becoming a priority to this age group.
- Gender equity: A rising in importance, as the #MeToo movement and media focus on diversity and inclusion grows.
- “Safe spaces:” a related need that arises from #3. Millennials want to work for companies where they feel truly accepted, involved and valued. Having a head of D&I does nothing if employees are treated differently in their jobs every day.
- Flexibility: “Don’t make me return to the office!” many people are saying (or just thinking while they update their resumes). The remote and hybrid workplace is here to stay and millennials are “voting with their feet” if their employers are requiring them to return full-time to offices.
Show Us the Money...and Some Respect
Gen Z may be distinctly different from millennials in terms of work styles and expectations. For example, paycheck size may be more important to this generation than to millennials. Hit hard by furloughs and layoffs as a result of the pandemic, this age group is worried about how they will be able to pay off student loans and build lives for themselves. New to the workforce, Gen Z wants to feel included and heard. Mental health is critically important, as is the ability to take time off from work when they need to. PTO (personal time off) can go a long way in keeping this group motivated.
Combining Humanity and Technology
In order to attract and retain the best millennial and Gen Z talent, employers must:
- Examine their own perceptions and biases
- Understand and respect generational differences and workstyles
- Create more flexibility for their employees, leveraging collaboration and communication technologies to foster relationships when the workforce may be spread across a wide range of geographies and schedules
- Ensure that employees of all ages enjoy a sense of purpose in their roles. The days of people staying in jobs for years out of a sense of loyalty or a big paycheck are long gone. Only by truly understanding and accepting your diverse workforce can you build a team that values and contributes to your business.
Managing a multigenerational team requires a deep understanding of how to motivate, communicate with, and reward people with vastly different life experiences and perspectives.