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Gen Z and the Millennials: A Sharp Contrast

We’ve written previously about some of the differences and similarities between Generation Z and millennials. As time goes by, that topic is becoming increasingly relevant as more and more members of Generation Z — those born between 1995 and 2010 — start entering the workforce.

Forbes contributor Deep Patel wrote a recent article in which he laid out what he sees as the eight greatest ways Generation Z will differ from millennials in the workplace. The article is interesting in the way it reinforces much of what we’ve written previously.

According to Patel, this generation is:

Motivated by Security

While many millennials were just entering the job market during the Great Recession, Generation Z largely experienced it as children. Seeing the financial struggles of their parents has given this group a unique outlook on the importance of financial security.

More Competitive than Millennials

Millennials grew up in a world where collaboration and cooperation were encouraged and rewarded. Generation Z — again based on their experience in the Great Recession — learned lessons about the need to work hard and not count on others to provide for them. This might make them more competitive than collaborative.

Desire for Independence

Related to the competitive nature of Generation Z, this cohort also prefers working independently, as opposed to in groups. In part, this is due to a desire to show off their abilities. Additionally, many Generation Zers are foregoing the traditional four-year college route and taking their own path by moving directly into the workforce — driven in part by seeing their older siblings struggle with student debt.


Even more than millennials, Generation Z grew up surrounded by competing media — smartphones, tablets, TVs, etc. This group multitasks by nature.


Patel cites data showing that, “Generation Z is 55% more likely to want to start a business than millennials. In fact, a full 72% of Gen Z high school students say that they want to start a business.”

Face-To-Face Communication

This may seem surprising, but while millennials often prefer to communicate via email, their younger siblings prefer face-to-face communication 55 percent more than millennials.

True Digital Natives

Millennials came of age during the Digital Age. This was the first generation to truly embrace the internet. But while millennials grew up going to the computer lab to play Oregon Trail, Generation Z grew up with their own laptop, when smartphones where already well established and when the internet had always just been there.

Wants to be Catered To

Patel notes that Generation Z is fairly similar to millennials and even baby boomers in their desire and expectation to have their employers cater to them and to actively seek to provide them with a favorable workplace.

Just as we start getting used to the characteristics, preferences, motivations and behaviors of millennials in the workplace, a new cohort is knocking on the door of America’s workplace.

Generation Z is likely to be similar in many ways to their older brothers and sisters, but it would be a mistake to think of them as simply a younger extension of millennials. Savvy employers will pay attention to how this group differs and will seek to cater to the best and brightest of this new group.

Be inclusive!

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