With five different generations currently in the workforce, HR managers and recruiters have a unique handful in trying to find and keep top talent across them all. One of these challenges is understanding the separate needs of the youngest generations in the workforce — Millennials and Generation Z.
Millennials (people born between 1981 and 1996) are the largest generation in the workforce right now. Gen Z (people born between 1997 to 2012) is gaining traction as they graduate college and their first jobs. Both Millennials and Gen Zers have a lot in common in how they communicate, use technology, approach career development, receive feedback and recognition, and prioritize wellbeing. But it’s important to understand what keeps these generations engaged and thriving in the workplace as there are also a few differences between them. Let’s dive right in.
One of the key similarities between Millennials and Gen Z is their preference for communicating virtually versus in person. Both generations grew up with smartphones and value real-time communication. They would rather communicate via text or chat messages, social media, or video conferencing compared to previous generations who prefer face-to-face conversations.
While Millennials and Gen Z are comfortable using emojis and abbreviations in their communications, Gen Z often uses more slang and informal language.
This informal language can sometimes confuse their colleagues, even Millennials, and cause friction. You can mitigate this potential friction by engaging Gen Z with older generations (e.g., Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials) in team-building activities and other initiatives to help them understand each other more.
Takeaways for Employers
- Offer your employees digital channels of communication. You could implement a company-wide chat, like Slack or Microsoft Teams, that lets employees easily communicate and collaborate without having to schedule a meeting or phone call.
- Feel free to add some emojis into communication with new Millennial and Gen Z hires. For example, when you send them a welcome email, you could add a waving emoji (👋) to your subject line.
Technology Experience and Preferences
Millennials and Gen Z both grew up in a digital world and have a deep understanding and comfort level regarding technology. They use technology extensively in the workplace to stay connected, work collaboratively, and increase productivity.
Millennials grew up having to adapt to constantly evolving technology — from flip phones to iPhones, they’ve seen it all. They’re adaptable and can help other employees learn new technology.
On the other hand, Gen Z was born into a world that relied on more sophisticated technology. In the workplace, Gen Z has higher expectations about the technology that your company should be using.
Generation Z is significantly more likely to consume visual content than Millennials. Not only that, but Gen Z is okay with using their phone to consume their content: One study shows that 61% of Gen Zers will watch videos on their phone instead of on TV.
Takeaways for Employers
- Try getting input from Millennials and Gen Zers when you need to adopt new technology. They may be able to offer valuable insights about usability, functionality, and how it would fit into your existing workflows.
- Using visuals such as images and GIFs to supplement text-based content can make it more interactive to keep Gen Z focused and engaged.
Millennials and Gen Z are more likely to prioritize career development and value ongoing learning, development, and advancement in the workplace. In one survey, 29% of Millennials said they chose their new job because the employer offers learning and development opportunities.
Millennials tend to be more collaborative and team-oriented, whereas Gen Z values independence and individual achievement more. Gen Z is also more likely to prioritize entrepreneurial pursuits, with many choosing to start their own businesses rather than climb the corporate ladder.
Takeaways for Employers
- Prioritize creating opportunities for Millennials that foster communication and collaboration. One way to provide them with clear pathways for career growth and opportunities to learn new skills is through coaching or mentorship programs.
- For Gen Zers, try to empower them through individual achievement and entrepreneurial pursuits. This could include offering job flexibility and providing them with helpful resources — like self-paced training courses — that facilitate growth.
Feedback and Recognition
Both Millennials and Gen Z value feedback and recognition in the workplace. They’re likely to respond positively to feedback, coaching, and recognition from their supervisors. However, there are some slight differences to keep in mind.
Millennials typically want structured performance reviews and meaningful feedback from their employers. They want to know how they can improve their performance and productivity. Millennials want to learn and grow in their roles, believing meaningful feedback can help keep them on track.
Gen Z values more frequent and informal feedback. In a GenHQ study, more than 60% of responding Gen Zers said they need feedback from their managers at least once every few weeks. In the same study, 20% of Gen Zers said they need feedback daily.
Takeaways for Employers
- Focus on providing structured performance reviews annually or biannually to Millennials in order to help them gain meaningful insights into their work and how they can improve it.
- For Gen Z, you can help your team members by providing more frequent, informal feedback that they can continuously implement into their workflows.
Wellbeing and Work-Life Wellness
Both millennials and Gen Z prioritize wellbeing and work-life wellness in the workplace. These two generations value opportunities for self-care, stress management, and overall physical and mental wellbeing.
Millennials and Gen Z also value employers who invest in employee wellness programs, such as offering meditation classes or providing access to mental health services. When it comes down to it, employees want to feel cared for. Employees are more likely to stay with an employer who prioritizes their wellbeing, as reported by Gallup.
Takeaways for Employers
- Look for ways to add flexibility to your work culture with customizable work hours, remote work, and/or a four-day workweek. Flexible workplaces have been shown to increase employee engagement and productivity while decreasing stress.
- Help reduce employees’ workload. You can do this by automating certain processes in their workflows or re-delegating tasks to employees with a lighter workload.
Support Employee Wellbeing Across Every Generation
The workforce’s younger employees may place a heavier emphasis on wellbeing than previous generations, but employees of all ages thrive when their needs are met. Nearly 90% of companies that track the impact of their wellbeing programs see a clear return on investment in employee engagement, customer satisfaction and profitability.
Fostering wellness in a multi-generational staff can benefit from an a la carte wellness program that gives employees tools suited to their personal life stage. A Boomer, for example, may love access yoga courses that help them stay flexible, while a Millennial looking to have their first child may be more excited about prenatal nutrition counseling. At the same time, your Gen Z staffers could be excited about remote access to personal trainers while the Gen X contingent wants to compete against each other in a Work Week Steps Challenge.
Gympass’ flexible wellness platform, which includes thousands of gyms and dozens of wellness apps, can help you facilitate wellbeing at every age. Reach out to one of our wellbeing specialists to learn more today!
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The Gympass Editorial Team empowers HR leaders to support worker wellbeing. Our original research, trend analyses, and helpful how-tos provide the tools they need to improve workforce wellness in today's fast-shifting professional landscape.