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Gen Zs vs Millennials in the Workplace

If your employee uses phrases like “it’s giving” or “that’s what’s up” regularly in speech, then you are officially working with a Gen Z professional. Let me introduce you to the generation of workers who prefer to deliver value on their own terms and prioritize smart work over hard work. This generation values their mental health more than amassing wealth. These people are popularly referred to as Gen Zs. In Nigeria, they are described as the “woke” generation by the Millennials.

 Gen Z refers to the generation of people born between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. They are the second largest generation alive after the Millennials. Currently, more than one-third of the world’s population are Gen Z breed. This generation is characterized by their big energy, love for luxury, distaste for stress, and affinity to whatever encourages variety.

 In the workplace, Gen Z is more concerned with maintaining a perfect work-life balance than achieving optimal work productivity. Whether this means taking multiple breaks, using up all of their sick leave, or embarking on a spur-of-the-moment vacation, a Gen Z employee will do whatever it takes to protect their mental health, even if it means quitting their job.

What is the difference between the Gen Zs and the Millennials?

Millennials are the generation of people born between the mid-1880s and the early 1990s. Technically, they are the parents of the Gen Zs, hence, the current situation of things in the workplace is more of a “you raised us now work with us” scenario between both generations. Shout-out to Lauren Stiller Rikleen for writing such an amazing book by the way.

The biggest difference between both generations is that where millennials live to plan for the future, Gen Zs prefer to live in the now. A typical Gen Z subscribes to the “Do what makes you happy” school of thought, while a typical millennial believes that you should “do what you need to do now, so you can do what you want later on”.

The difference between both generations is influenced by the thinking divide and is evident in every aspect of their lives. While Millennials are strict and do not mix business with pleasure, the Gen Z worker is always on the lookout for ways to make business more pleasurable.

A Gen Z breed will not thrive in the typical work environment of a millennial, it will appear stiff-necked and suffocating to him. While Millennials believe that button-up collared blouses tucked into ankle-length skirts in beige colors are the appropriate work attire, Gen Zs prefer to experiment with bold colors and are more comfortable in jeans. Millennials often strive to do more, take on extra work, and request additional tasks to impress their boss. However, Gen Zs will only ever work overtime if it attracts extra pay, as far as an employee in his twenties is concerned, you only live once and life is too short to spend the better part of it working.

Traits of a Typical Gen Z Employee

1. Ability to Work Individually

A typical Gen Z employee is more of a self-starter than a team member. This is because he is naturally competitive and excels in situations that allow him to showcase his prowess and expertise. It is natural for a Gen Z employee to get into an unspoken competition with a coworker working in a similar role as him, to see who does better. Gen Z breeds prefer to work alone on a project to circumvent the pressure of having to get along with everyone else on the team – often times they are more efficient that way. This is why most Gen Zs opt for full-time remote jobs rather than on-site jobs, regardless of pay.

2. Affinity to Gadgets and Digital Tools

The average young person cannot go an hour without touching his phone. Whether it is to get the latest update on a favorite TV show, or to check the trending topic on Twitter, a Gen Z breed’s phone is his verified best friend. This love is not restricted to his mobile device only, other electronic gadgets like laptops, Airpods, and so on, that are guaranteed to aid his pursuit for premium enjoyment also get their fair share. That explains why most young generation tech guys who are software developers and programmers were initially gamers. For most young people, their gadgets are their biggest investment.

Another thing that a typical Gen Z breed has a high affinity to is the soft life. Especially for the younger ones born in the 2000s, stress is a no-no. Anything that is designed to make life easier for the human race is welcomed by Gen Z. In the workplace, this means that they heavily patronize digital tools and AI software, for those who work remotely, productivity apps are their best friend.

However, because of his undiluted love for his smartphone, the average Gen Z tends to favor apps that work on mobile devices more than those that do not.

3. Loves to socialize

A typical Gen Z sees every achievement as a reason to celebrate and party. Unless he works in a strict organization, a Gen Z won’t be caught dead accomplishing work-related tasks on his birthday. If he has to show up at work on his birthday, then best believe he is going to be tweeting about it to his social media community – all Gen Zs have active social media accounts. In the workplace, he is the life of the party, always suggesting ways to make team-building events and staff-training programs more fun.

Sarcasm and light humor appeal to this generation the most, so you may often catch them binge-watching comedy skits during working hours. Gen Zs are the best in hyping, if you are a great boss, prepare to be greeted with praises and compliments every day, especially on days when he wants to take time off from work.

4. Desires Stability and Security

This is one trait that both millennials and Gen Zs have in common. This generation is more prone to making spontaneous decisions than Millennials. However, when it comes to their work, they value the stability that comes from a predictable job with clearly defined responsibilities and a fat paycheck. The average Gen Z employee will want to know all the terms and conditions of the role and the available benefits, before accepting a job offer.

5. YOLO Approach to Life

As far as a typical Gen Z is concerned, you only get one life so you should live it to the fullest. They prioritize happiness and a sense of fulfillment over an impressive job title. The Gen Z employee is prepared to quit his job if he sees it as a threat to his mental health and happiness. As a matter of fact, the typical Gen Z will keep job hopping until he finds his dream role.

This generation likes to take risks and try out new things and is the most outspoken set of employees in the office. What a Gen Z wants, he’ll make sure to get. He wouldn’t mind advocating for free meals during break time in his company if that’s what makes him happy.  

Gen Zs are more accepting and less judgmental than Millennials – if you work for a Gen Z employer, you would most likely get away with more than you are supposed to.

6. Creativity

This generation of people is very innovative. With digital skills now in demand, many Gen Zs are beginning to unlock their creative superpower. Currently, the best product designers, software developers, and so on, are young people. Digital skills aside, their love for the soft life motivates them to come up with the best ideas for games and other activities that can make events fun.

Dealing with Gen Zs in the Workplace

Although working from home was popularized during the lockdown because of COVID, it has stayed as the new normal because of Gen Zs. Companies that do not support remote work are striking a balance by allowing employees to work from home some days, and come to the office on others. Other popular changes some companies have adopted to make the office space more comfortable for Gen Zs include:

  • The introduction of the business casual work attire category.
  • Inclusion of data allowance and paid time off in employee benefits.
  • Privilege to take the day off on birthdays or work half-day.
  • Inclusion of “game time”, “happy hour” and celebratory dinners in the annual calendar.
  • Sponsored vacations or freebies as rewards to committed employees to encourage healthy competition.
  • The incorporation of salary bonuses and gift hampers at the end of the year, as incentives to encourage increased work productivity in the following year.

These practices might be inconvenient for small businesses and upcoming brands, however, organizations that can afford them are encouraged to adopt them. An ideal workplace should respect boundaries and support the employee’s growth. The quest for this ideal work environment may have started with Gen Z, but it won’t end in this generation.

Dear Millennial Employers

With all said and done, Gen Zs in the workplace sound like a handful. However, with the right motivation, this generation is willing to give their best efforts to any organization. All a Gen Z employee wants to stay motivated in the workplace is:

  • An attractive pay that can support his luxury lifestyle
  • Flexible working hours and paid work leaves.
  • Health benefits and relevant insurance packages
  • Opportunity to work with up-to-date software and digital technology.
  • An environment that is supportive of growth.
  • An understanding boss that can provide moral support when necessary.

Having a Gen Z in the workplace brings fun and laughter to the office space. However, it is for this reason that some millennials dislike working with the “woke” generation. They believe that the office space is not a social venue and as such should be calm and serene at all times – in Gen Z speak, this translates to boring. If you belong to this group of millennials, my message to you is simple; cut the kid some slack, life is dynamic and to grow we must be willing to go with the flow”.

Cheers to all the Gen Z employees out there, keep advocating for what you want!

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