Just When You Think You Understand Millennials, Generation Z Will Be Shaking Things Up for Leaders

Posted by Cortney Peters on Oct 12, 2015 1:58:57 PM

As the stereotype goes, Millennials (born roughly between 1980 and 1995) are entitled, impatient, and self-absorbed. As leaders, there has been a definite shift in many areas, including company culture and role expectations, that you've had to handle since the Millennials came of age. Generation Y is a hot topic among L & D professionals, and frankly every other industry's professionals as well because it has rocked the norm in every way. 

Leading Generation Z


But what about the next generation (born 1996-2010) of approximately 60 million known as Generation Z?  These people will become the dominant influencers of the future. Now that we've finally got a firm understanding of the Millennial generation, are you ready for what comes next? 


There is a race to define this generational archetype worth billions in revenue.  To do this, marketers must get inside the Gen Z mindset. Not only will this generation bring on a whole new array of talents and confusion, Gen Z like its predecessor generation will have an enormous impact on the workplace.


To get inside the psyche of the Gen Z, we must look at the world in which they came of age.


Who is Generation Z?

Gen Z grew up in times of uncertainty with war and the Great Recession in a post 9/11 world.  Because of the influence of war and poverty, Gen Z tends to share characteristics of The Silent Generation (those born roughly from mid-1920’s to 1940’s) or that of their grandparents or great-grandparents.  They are eager to find stable work, worry about the economy, are a generation of entrepreneurs, and are highly educated.  However with the ability to navigate across five screens, their attention spans are getting shorter. 


First technology:


Millennial         Gen Z

iPod                  iPhone


Many Gen Zers can’t remember a time before the iPhone.  They easily take in enormous amounts of information and lose interest just as fast. 


Social Media:


Millennial          Gen Z

Facebook          Whisper, Secret, Snapchat


Gen Z seems to use technology with privacy in mind, considering that in all their preferred platforms images and messages disappear almost instantly. Unfortunately, growing up with technology can lead to underdeveloped interpersonal skills. 


A Sparks & Honey trend report called “Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials” affirms Gen Z is seen by many as the opposite or the extreme of the Millennials.  Similarly, an infographic by Adam Maidment illustrates several key differences between the two. 32% of Gen Z’ers want to find their dream job while 34% of Millennials want financial stability. As far as career expectations go 41% of Millennials want a job with the potential for growth, while only 30% of Gen Zs say the same.  Gen Z puts more emphasis on their personal connections (28%) than Millennials (20%). 


Statistics show that Gen Z already makes up around 7% of the workforce or around 11 million people.  And by 2019, 30 million Gen Zers are expected to be employed.


What can a manager do to prepare best for these future employees?  First, although they may seem similar, Gen Z are not Millennials and should be treated differently.   Although high-maintenance, the Gen Zer will be a great worker if their needs are met. Bruce Tulgan, Founder of Rainmaker Thinking, suggests the following:


  • Invest in learning and teaching- this generation requires more training and continuous support and guidance even after initial training. Training materials should be engaging, mobile, and available post-training for reference. 


  • Provide mentorship- Growing up with Gen Z parents who were not as protective as the helicopter type Millennial parent, Gen Z does benefit from close, engaging relationships and a strong peer leader. 


  • Promote collaboration- Gen Z grew up in a school system that promoted inclusive, collaborative learning and, as a result, we have a generation of team players and contributors.


  • Provide structure- Gen Z will be most efficiently incorporated with clear, concise guidelines and structure. Unlike their Millennial predecessors, Gen Z is uncomfortable with unstructured conditions.  There must be an easily identifiable chain of command.


  • Give them an incentive- As they are used to being rewarded for anything they do, keep a Gen Z worker motivated by setting goals and recognizing their achievements.


Generation Z will change the relationship between employee and employer, making it a closer but mutually beneficial exchange. As modern leaders, we must brace ourselves for this highly capable yet vastly different generation, sooner than we might think. 

Sources: Bruzzese, Anita. “On the Job: New Generation is Arriving in the Workplace.” USA Today; Maidment, Adam.  “The Difference Between Gen Z and Millennials in the Workplace[Infographic].”Careerenlightenment; Sparks & Honey Meet Generation Z: Forget Everything You Learned About Millennials.” Slideshare; Williams, Alex. “Move Over, Millennials, Here Comes Generation Z.” New York Times.



Topics: Corporate Learning

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