Posted 30th October 2019

The modern workplace is a melting pot of at least four generations. Each with unique characteristics, needs and values, shaped by different life experiences. Millennials were the new kids on the block, but they have now passed that baton on to Generation Z. But just how different are the two most recent demographic cohorts, and how can organisations embrace and appeal to a multigenerational workforce?


Talking ‘bout my generation

Millennials grew up during the technology revolution of the ‘90s and ‘00s, when computers, the internet, email and mobile phones became a central part of everyday life. Most will remember when Yahoo! was bigger than Google, when you couldn’t speak on the phone and use the internet at the same time, and they were probably on Friends Reunited before they got a Facebook profile. They experienced the rise of Britpop, the birth of the Spice Girls, and the novelty of a fifth TV channel. They are known for being sociable and more liberal and tolerant than those who came before them.

Gen Z, however, were born into a tech-savvy world and are seen as true digital natives. They may just about remember when CDs and DVDs were popular, but more than likely grew up downloading or streaming their entertainment. Their mobiles phones are smartphones. They are ‘always-on’, seeing fewer boundaries between work and home life, and communicating more through social media than email. They are known for their individuality, being passionate about equality and justice, and forging their own path in life away from traditional conventions and labels.


A generational divide

Having watched their parents struggle to adapt to workforce changes, Millennials are sceptical that building a career for life and being loyal to one or two organisations is the right path for them. Instead, purpose and work-life balance are their motivations, and they are not afraid to change jobs or career direction to find them. Collaboration and teamwork are high on their agenda. They want openness, honesty and flexibility from their employers and are more confident when it comes to challenging the system.

On the other hand, Gen Z have observed the financial and emotional impacts of recession on their elders, and as a result, want to prepare for the future and protect themselves from fickle employers and an uncertain job market. Motivated by career independence and financial security, they are natural entrepreneurs and have a thirst for self-development, wanting to acquire skills, knowledge and experience that they can take with them as they grow. They are adept at multitasking, can be competitive, prefer working alone, and favour face-to-face communication.


Closer than you think

Despite their differences, both generations are hardworking, eager to succeed, full of new ideas, and have an ambition to learn and a strong need to develop. For Millennials, this means developing new skills so they can find their purpose, and for Gen Z it’s about becoming more relevant.

Whether Millennial or Gen Z, it’s essential that employers understand individuals’ motivations and expectations, and offer genuine support and encouragement in everyone’s development. Give people the opportunity to be visible and to cultivate their personal brand within an organisation.

Key to achieving this is an open dialogue between individuals and employers that gives people control over their career and visibility of opportunities now, and for the future. Showing them future opportunities that they can evolve into will inspire Millennials in their search for purpose and personal fulfilment, and meet the aspirations of longer-term security sought by Gen Z. Both will respect employers that provide feedback and insights on how they are performing and progressing, and enable them to capture their achievements, experiences, skills, and ultimately their value in a meaningful way.

If employers get this right, it creates an environment of trust and confidence, which in turn will be rewarded with productivity and loyalty. Not only will they have an engaged workforce, but they will save money on recruitment too. By giving people a chance to become their full and true selves, whatever generation they are from, they will be working towards their future and yours, and less likely to be searching for a better fit elsewhere.

If you would like more information about how Optunli can help you to achieve this, visit

Teresa Fox
Post author:Teresa Fox

Teresa Fox is a Co-CEO and Founder of Optunli.

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