Will millennials and Gen Z rule the workforce by 2020?

Here's a look at what makes the youngest segment of the workforce, millennials and Gen Z, tick.

One generation can still remember the sweet sound of a dial-up modem and a time when emojis were called emoticons. The other generation had an iPad for a nanny, and can’t remember a time before Netflix. What both these age groups have in common is an inseparable relationship with technology.

These two factions are millennials and Generation Z, both famous documentarians recording and sharing everything, from what they eat to when they sleep through a complex network of wearables and apps, living the motto ‘pics or it didn’t happen’.

For over a decade, businesses have been trying to figure out this lost generation, most of whom entered the workforce during the financial crisis and famously moved back in with their parents well into their 20s. Millennials represented a new and different factions of the workforce that preceded them.

The decade-long obsession with millennials stems from the idea that they are the next generation to take on the yoke of business, politics, and culture. Businesses want to know who they’re hiring, and investors want to know what kind of entrepreneur they’d be backing.

Experts predict that by 2020, millennials, now aged between 21 and 35, will make up 35 per cent of the global workforce while ‘Generation Z’, aged 20 and younger, will make up 24 per cent. So in three short years, more than half the entire workforce population around the world will be made up by younger workers.

Considering their powerful effect on trends, technological innovation, workplace culture and even the way we communicate, businesses have had to adapt to attract and retain the attention of this impatient generation and its successors, Gen Z.

According to Park Communications, it’s the differences and similarities in work ethic and world view between millennials and Gen Z  that can truly help businesses build an attractive work culture.

Millennials are multitaskers

Known as Generation Y or Generation Me, millennials make up one of the most discussed age groups for businesses looking to tap into tech-savvy talent. Demographers disagree on the exact date range, but millennials are largely considered to be born between 1982 and 1996, and have been described as educated, positive about tech, entrepreneurial, civic-orientated, environmentally conscious, and progressive.

  • 91 per cent are regular internet users
  • 73 per cent work more than 40 hours a week
  • 26 per cent globally work two or more paid jobs
  • 12 per cent say it is unlikely they will ever retire

Gen Z is ambitious

Known as Post-Millennials, The Founders or Generation We, members of Gen Z were born after 1996 and will soon become the youngest demographic in the workforce as they complete their studies and move into the professional realm. Having grown up using the internet as second nature, Gen Z are true digital natives and have never known a world without it.

  • Prefer shorter, informal communication
  • Likely to be the most entrepreneurial generation yet
  • 61 per cent want a boss they can respect
  • 58 per cent are willing to work nights and weekends

Money: no longer the most effective motivator

With new expectations and values placed on careers, millennials are completely challenging the traditional workplace and paving the way for a younger generation that, like their predecessors, expect far more from a job than just remuneration.

63 per cent of millennials intend to stay with their current employer for the next few years or longer, but research suggests that companies aiming to attract millennial talent need to offer more than just money to increase retention and happiness.

A survey conducted with over 19 000 working millennials across 25 countries revealed their top five priorities when looking for a job:

  • 92 per cent money
  • 87 per cent security
  • 86 per cent holidays or time off
  • 80 per cent great people
  • 79 per cent flexible working

Four things worth more to millennials than money

 New opportunities

They would rather stay at a company that offers new opportunities than move to a new one. Other things that create loyalty include:

  • Better work life balance
  • A clear career path
  • Recognition from managers and peers

 Regular communication

Short-term objectives are important to millennials and at work, they prefer regular check-ins to annual reviews so that plans can be changed accordingly. Communication needs to happen as fast and as regularly as social updates do. 

Recognition and feedback

Recognition and real-time feedback is an important way to motivate and encourage millennials at work, and is considered a low cost, high impact way to inspire loyalty and happiness. According to research:

  • 64 per cent of millennials want to be recognised for personal accomplishments
  • However, 39 per cent say their companies don’t offer any recognition

Work-life balance and alternatives to full-time work

The traditional nine-to-five doesn’t exist for millennials anymore. In fact, it’s been reported that because they value balance so much, 77 per cent of millennials say a flexible work schedule enables them to be more productive, and they will actively seek out companies that offer this.
This has led to an increase in:

  • Flexible options like working from home
  • Flexitime
  • A rise in coworking spaces

See also: 5 ways to build a healthy intergenerational workplace

Top five reasons millennials quit their jobs

global survey of full-time workers in eight countries finds that one third say that managing work-life has become more difficult, with younger generations and parents hit hardest. But hat makes millennials want to quit their jobs?

  • Minimal wage growth
  • Lack of opportunity to advance
  • Excessive overtime hours
  • A work environment that doesn’t encourage teamwork
  • A boss that doesn’t allow working flexibility

Communicating with millennials and Gen Z

Having had a massive impact on the way we communicate today, millennials and Gen Z are responsible for creating a world in which media consumption is rapid, multitasking is the norm and filtering information quickly is a necessity. For businesses and recruiters looking to grab the attention of these potential employees, it’s essential to consider new ways of communicating.

‘Blink, share, laugh, forget’
That’s how The Future Laboratory summarises Gen Z’ers, who experts say are fast-thinking and expect the same from their media platforms – which they turn to when doing research. When aiming to catch the attention of potential employees, businesses need to remember this by using social media to convey company values and culture.

When 18 to 29 year- olds research prospective companies:
• 28 per cent use Instagram
• 25 per cent use Facebook
• 23 per cent use LinkedIn

The age of ‘TL:d/r (too long, didn’t read)

Millennials and Gen Z readers won’t devote time to something if it doesn’t grab their attention. While emails are still one of the preferred communication methods among this demographic, one study revealed that 70 per cent of millennials believe text messaging apps are resulting in emails becoming shorter and less formal.

Considering how much tech has impacted the way millennials engage, companies looking to attract and keep talent should invest in new digital communication tools and technology – especially since 93 per cent of millennials say that up-to-date technology is one of the most important aspects of a workplace.

Don’t overlook the art of ‘unplugging’

There’s a reason that 2016 was a record-breaking year for the UK publishing industry, with book sales growing by 8 per cent – the highest increase since 2012. Because millennials are always plugged in, they consider ‘unplugging’ a novel way to relax, enjoying the tactile feeling of holding a real book over that of an eBook – and this translates into the way they view work and downtime.

This need for unplugging is something businesses need to remember when dealing with millennials and Gen Z. In addition to the value they place on flexibility and agile working options, young employees are happiest when they have work life balance. To help encourage this, businesses are setting time limits to when emails can be sent, discouraging after-hours work and encouraging leave to be taken.

What does the future hold?

More businesses are going to start introducing benefits to increase employee happiness and loyalty as the millennial and Gen Z workforce increase, flexible working will become even more in demand, and different ways of communication will start to become more mainstream as businesses adjust to the ways in which this ever-evolving demographic engages.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for GrowthBusiness.co.uk from 2016 to 2018.