Talking ‘bout the next generation

Move over millennials, the first cohort of generation Z are now entering the workplace and they’re bringing their optimism, purpose and motivation with them.

In contrast to their millennial predecessors, our recent survey indicates that the newest generation to the workplace - those born between 1997 and 2010 - are making a good impression on their colleagues. Sixty percent of professionals of all ages view gen Z as more optimistic about the future than millennials. Just over half said that gen Z are more motivated than millennials (53 percent) and that gen Z places more emphasis on whether their work has purpose (54 percent).

Interestingly, stress levels were seen as a major differentiator between the two generations. More than two-thirds (67 percent) of survey respondents believe millennials are more stressed in the workplace than gen Z. They also see millennials as being more motivated by salary/compensation (58 percent) and career progression (65 percent).

Ages and stages

Of course, many of these views may simply reflect the different stages of life that members of the two generations are experiencing. Older millennials are now established professionals, if not senior leaders. They may be parents or have other care-giving responsibilities. Gen Z on the other hand are new to the work force and excited about taking on the world.

Another aspect influencing these findings may be the changing environmental conditions that have shaped their formative experiences. While gen Z have grown up enjoying growth and prosperity over the last decade, millennials came of age amid the global financial crisis. Even if they didn’t experience outright recession, millennials started their working lives in a very different business environment.

Maintaining the gen Z momentum

There’s no doubt that each new generation entering the workforce brings their own unique attributes and challenges. Working effectively in a multi-generational workforce means recognising these different attributes and motivations and engaging with them, rather than dismissing them.

This means that leaders and organisations will need to develop their policies and processes to speak to the needs and motivations of each generation, from gen Z through to the oldest members of the workforce. As a start, this means for gen Z:

  • Onboarding for success: Design your onboarding program to tap into the intrinsic motivation that gen Z brings to the workplace. Does it help young people to visualise where that motivation can take them within your business? Does it strike the right balance in developing both what you want them to do (the technical content of their job) and how you want them to do it (the behaviours you want them to use)?
  • Be clear about what you expect (and what you can offer in return): Attracting and retaining the right people (whether from gen Z or otherwise) relies on being absolutely clear on what the job involves and what you expect, as well as what you will offer in return. For younger generations, this increasingly means thinking about the whole person - high salaries will always be attractive, but gen Z will also be thinking about how a role can help them work towards their purpose as well.