Gen Z vs. Millennials: Definitions and Key Differences

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 10, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

As more members of Generation Z or Gen Z finish schooling and launch their careers, the issue of workplace dynamics with the millennial generation becomes more impactful. In other areas, such as social media, there's already a growing divide between members of Gen Z and the millennials regarding how they approach and handle life, marriage, and other issues. There are many differences and similarities between these two generations, and it's crucial to understand these to create a workplace where both generations can flourish and collaborate.

In this article, we define the Gen Z and millennials generations, outline their key features, differences, and similarities, and discuss the benefits their unique insights and experiences bring to the workplace.

Defining Gen Z vs. millennials

The birth years and age range are the primary factors people use to compare the Gen Z vs. millennials generations. In this fashion, Gen Z refers to the demographic of people born from 1997 to 2012. The individuals in Gen Z are people currently between the ages of 10 to 25. Gen Z is the generation after the millennials and before Gen Alpha, the current generation. Here are some of the defining characteristics of Gen Z:

  • Grew up with access to advanced technology, such as cell phones, the internet, and social media

  • Extremely aware of social, economic, and environmental issues worldwide

  • Born and grew up in the age of streaming services

  • High levels of activism for social justice, racism, and gender issues

  • Highly independent and focused on tech, art, fashion, and music careers

Read more: What Is Generation Z? (And How to Attract Gen Z Employees)

What are millennials?

The millennials, also called Generation Y, are those individuals born from 1981 to 1996. This generation includes people currently between the ages of 26 to 41. Millennials are the generation that came after Gen X and before Gen Z. Here are some of the defining characteristics of millennials:

  • Witnessed the initial boom of technology and the popular tech that later became obsolete

  • Experienced high pressure to attend college and pursue white-collar careers

  • Witnessed the creation of social media and the rise of television shows

  • Grew up impacted by terrorism and crises such as the great recession

  • Were a big part of the rise in activist causes such as racial and gender equality

Read more: What Is the Millennial Generation: Definition and Traits

Differences between Gen z vs. millennials

Here are several core differences between Gen Z vs. millennials:

Relationship with social media and the internet

Gen Z is the first generation of digital natives because they were born into the internet age. They built a large part of their lives and social presence online, meaning they formed many of their friendships through social media. Members of Gen Z also have an intuitive understanding of how to use the internet and social media to accomplish their goals and can quickly adapt to new technological advancements.

In contrast, millennials sometimes take longer to learn and understand how to use internet tools and social media. They were born just before the age of the internet or shortly after it began, so they're often less comfortable merging their real-life social skills with the growing online community's trends. Millennials are eager to learn and enjoy the process of mastering new tools and technological advancements.

Decision making

Millennials are often more optimistic, with a highly entrepreneurial and inventive mindset when it comes to decision-making. In direct contrast, Gen Z individuals are more risk-averse and cautious because they witnessed and read about the instability millennials experienced. Gen Z is typically more interested in tested and well-established channels that can create security and success for them.

Privacy

Millennials had access to the internet without a proper understanding of the privacy issues it brought, while Gen Z may be more aware of all the side effects that come with the internet and social media. As a result, millennials are typically more open with others and can easily blend their personal and professional lives. In comparison, Gen Z is more conscious of security and prefers to separate professional matters from personal ones.

Teamwork

Gen Z individuals are more independent and enjoy figuring out issues by themselves, while millennials are more collaborative and prefer to brainstorm the solutions to problems with others. Millennials also like sharing their workspace and socially engaging other employees, while Gen Z prefers to work on their own and thrive in remote work systems. Gen Z includes more competitive individuals who like having control over the product and work system and have more focus on their individual success and growth.

Read more: How to Embrace the Strengths of Millennials in the Workplace

Entrepreneurial mindset

Gen Z is typically the more entrepreneurial generation. They prefer to be independent in their careers and are more interested in creating startups and businesses in areas that interest them. They're eager to explore new career options until they find one that works. In contrast, millennials may concentrate on stability. They don't mind working in big companies and corporations if it suits their needs and provides a stable routine and life.

Education

Millennials grew up believing that college was the natural next step after finishing high school and that it's an essential part of starting a proper career. They also preferred to pursue white-collar jobs with big companies after finishing college. The case is very different with Gen Z as many have already started their career from high school and prefer to use alternative ways to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for their career path. These alternative methods include online classes and videos and real-world experience.

Similarities between Gen Z vs. millennials

Below are some similarities these generations may share:

Both generations are tech-savvy and proficient with social media

They prefer to do all their work processes online and are willing to learn how to use new technology to make their work faster and more efficient. Learning how to utilize new technology is easier for these generations than for previous generations because they're digital natives. They also enjoy connecting with other professionals in their field and sharing tips and valuable information.

Read more: What Is Generation X? (Characteristics and Careers)

They're extremely socially conscious

They want to work with companies and people that are socially responsible and consider their impact on the environment and society. Gen Z and millennials care deeply about finding cures for diseases, promoting world peace, and finding solutions to climate change issues. They're not afraid to speak up against what they consider problematic and openly criticize bad decisions by their leaders and government.

Gen Z and millennials emphasize communication

These generations grew up with open communication and work better with continuous feedback about their actions. Clear feedback about their work helps to motivate them and encourages them to improve. They're also expressive of their thoughts and feelings about any problems they might have with others.

Both care about their health and wellbeing

Gen Z and millennials are two generations that prioritize their health and wellbeing. They both prefer to work for companies and people that care about them and prioritize their work-life balance. They also promote that people get enough sleep, do a lot of exercise and yoga, eat healthily, take a good number of breaks, and maintain an excellent work-life balance.

Gen Z and millennials welcome acknowledgment

These two generations favour performance-based incentives and recognition for their hard work and contributions. They want acknowledgement for the help and work they render to their companies or other people and aren't afraid to inform the company or person about this preference. They appreciate gratification, such as bonuses, raises, or gift cards.

Read more: 12 Best Jobs for Millennials (With Skills Needed to Excel)

Benefits of having a multi-generational workforce

Here are some of the benefits that having a mix of Gen Z and millennials in the workplace can bring:

  • Mentoring opportunities: Millennials can provide mentorship to the Gen Z employees who are just starting their careers. Gen Z can also help millennials adapt better to the world and its ever-changing technology.

  • Increased empathy and understanding: The interaction between older and younger colleagues with different opinions and perspectives can increase empathy and improve their understanding of how people and the world work.

  • Improved productivity and workflow: The collaboration of the two generations creates a strong combination of experience and innovation that can significantly enhance the company's productivity and add diversity to the work team.


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