Are Gen Z Really Different To Millennials?

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Just as everyone begins to grasp the trends and working styles of millennials, it is time to make way for their successors. Whether you call them Gen Z, iGen or Centennials, they are immersed in an entirely different culture to their predecessors. Thought to be born between 1996 and 2010 (although I believe it is their behaviours which set them apart, not their age), we are now beginning to see this group graduate university (or complete higher apprenticeships) and begin their careers. As they emerge into the workplace, we must analyse their needs and determine what if anything should we change in our management style to keep them motivated. So are generation Z going to be different? Or are they simply millennials on steroids?

They know that the sky is not the limit 

You will be glad to hear that contrary to their predecessors, Gen Z do not believe that opportunities are limitless and that anything is possible if you just believe. Due to growing up in the midst of a global recession and the war on terror, they are more likely to seek stability and less likely to take risks. Thus, this renders their expectations from their career more realistic. They know that they must work to stay relevant and continue to develop both their skillset and experience in order to grow as professionals.

However, it must be noted that according to Gen Z marketing specialist Deep Patel, as many as 72% of Gen Z aspire to starting their own business one day. This means that although they may not skip off to travel the world as frequently as millennials do, there is a risk that they will leave your company to start something of their own. So in order to hang on to them (for as long as you can!) you must create a workplace which allows them to innovate and work independently to meet their goals. 

They prefer face-to-face contact 

It is possible we are reaching the end of the days where around the office a hundred conversations are taking place at once, yet nobody speaks aloud. If you need to get a message to someone sitting directly opposite you, it seems more appropriate to send an email than to break the silence. Gen Z are likely to curb this trend somewhat. Due to the way they use technology, for example applications such as FaceTime or SnapChat, they are much more confident engaging in face-to-face exchanges. This means companies should place more of an importance on ‘open-door’ policies with management and team meetings to encourage communication within the teams nurturing open and honest conversation. 

They are much more tech dependant

If you thought millennials couldn’t live without their devices, brace for impact. Although they do not like the stereotype that they could swipe before they could talk. It has to be noted that Gen Z depend on technology for many of their daily tasks. It is likely that they exclusively watch shows on streaming sites, communicate online (as opposed to making a call) and they even pay for things using their phones. This means that it is important you have a technologically exciting workplace to attract them. They will be frustrated with dated systems and too many manual processes and they will always endeavour to innovate where they feel a task could use more automation. It’s important to encourage this and perhaps set up committees for them to help with technological projects taking place throughout the organisation as this will be both interesting and exciting for them. 

They look up to influencers more than celebrities 

Gen Z are much more likely to consume marketing via YouTube or Instagram and are much more likely therefore to value the opinion of a blogger over the celebrities (and magazines) of days gone by. You may struggle to see the relevance of this to their employment choices, however it is important to recognise that they are talented investigators when seeking information online. Whether it is the latest trend in trainers, or a scathing review of your company on Glassdoor, Gen Z will make it their mission to find it. For this reason it is now more important than ever that you ensure all of your employees are brand ambassadors and that they have nothing but great things to say about their workplace. You may even want to create a hashtag at some of the office socials so as they can do some organic gushing about how they have found their dream job. 

They are early-birds 

One of the main differences between millennials and Gen Z is the declining aspiration to get a degree. A key achievement for millennials upon finishing school was to move onto university and become qualified in a discipline of their choice. Due to the rise in entrepreneurialism in online businesses and also higher-apprentice-style schemes being offered by employers, Gen Z are becoming too impatient to spend the years necessary to gain a university education. It is important for businesses to take advantage of this and to offer school-leaver opportunities as well as graduate schemes to ensure their access to all of the top talent emerging from school. 

Although we will not see the stark difference between millennials and Gen Z that we witnessed between the boomers and millennials, it is important that we do not just write off Gen Z as an extension of their millennial counterparts. It is vital that we continue to evolve our development opportunities and management styles to ensure we get the best from our talent and ultimately the very best for our organisations. 

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