Gen Z vs. Millennials: Can the Workplace Work for Both?
Guess who’s coming to the workplace? It’s Generation Z (aka GenZ or iGen) – the diverse, independent and globally connected group born since 1998.
By 2020, they’ll number 30 million in the workforce and present unique challenges for workplaces trying to accommodate both GenZ and millennials.
Different Workplace Needs for GenZ and Millennials
These two youngest – and eventually biggest – groups in the workplace have some reasonably disparate interests and needs when it comes to their work environment.
For example, millennials are driven by work that contributes to the greater good. GenZ is motivated by financial stability and structure.
Millennials perform well in open office layouts that help foster the development of their own unconventional paths to getting the job done. GenZers can become lost or distracted in an open office environment and get frustrated if they can’t personalize their space or have access to both guidance and privacy.
Millennials like public forums where they can share their knowledge and gain knowledge from others. GenZ likes more private and focused forums – particularly ones where messages self destruct (think Snapchat).
When it comes to leadership, millennials embrace flat organizations and hierarchies. GenZ wants, needs and even craves leadership driven by face-to-face communications.
GenZ and Millennials in One Office – Making It Work
So how can you help these two groups thrive in a single office?
First, commit to understanding the diverse work, communication and leadership styles of your workforce. Then be sure you're providing the resources to help employees from these different groups succeed. Since GenZ values face-to-face connections, adopt tools that allow for this, like video conferencing. Reconfigure office spaces, if possible, to include places for private conversations and distraction-free time.
While company-wide social messaging is popular with millennials, consider adopting project-specific solutions, too, where GenZ workers can send public messages to smaller groups that are focused on the same project goals. Messages will be delivered with the same sense of immediacy and in a public forum – both plusses for millennials – but reach only the most interested audience, which appeals to GenZers.
Millennials like to find their own way of doing things, but GenZ wants feedback and manager approval. Solution? Guidance and mentoring programs feed GenZ’s management preferences and provide oversight and leadership without feeling overbearing for Millennials.
Emphasizing transparency and purpose across the organization talks directly to Millennials and helps the GenZ crowd feel the value of their work, too.
GenZ is still in the workplace minority, but that’s all set to change in just a few years. Taking steps now to prepare for every generation – from Baby Boomers to GenZ – will help position your company to successfully welcome the workplace’s soon-to-be youngest generation.
- Check out our infographic, Preparing the Workplace for Generation Z.
- Read our previous post about millennials in the workplace.