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Differences Between Generation Z and Millennials
Published Wednesday, August 23, 2017

There’s a new generation in town and it’s one that employers better get ready for, because it’s 23 million strong and will be flooding workplaces by the end of this decade.

Ladies and gentlemen, meet Generation Z, a confidence-filled group that doesn’t want to miss a thing, has the shortest attention span of any generation and isn’t quite as open as its predecessors–the millennials–from whom they learned that not everything needs to be shared online.

“If you try to treat those in Generation Z, born in the mid to late 90s, mostly to Generation X parents, like you treated millennials, born in the early 80s to mid 90s, mostly to Baby Boomers, it will backfire on you,” says Matt Stewart, co-founder of College Works Painting. "This generation is unique.”

Thanks to his role at College Works Painting, which offers internships that help undergraduates gain real-life business management experience, Stewart has had a first-hand look at both millennials and Generation Z. And, he says, there are differences between the two.

Author and generations expert David Stillman says you won’t find Generation Z frequenting Facebook or Twitter as much as their predecessors. Keenly aware of software monitoring, they are more likely to share their worlds on apps such as Snapchat or Instagram. Often called Digital Natives, millennials have been more likely to share their lives in open platforms like Facebook.

But being culturally connected is more important to Generation Z than it is to millennials, with many more Gen Zers suffering from FOMO or Fear of Missing Out.

Stewart says he doesn't see any of this as a hard and fast rule and says the experience Generation Z employees have at College Works Painting, and the impact they pride themselves on having, is much the opposite of FOMO. An example that Stewart says other companies can follow.

  • While Generation Z has grown up with smart phones, tablets, 3-D, 4-D and 360-degree photography, Stillman says holding the attention of a Gen Zer is harder than ever. Their average attention span is eight seconds versus the 12-second attention span of millennials.
  • While millennials are driven to succeed by helicopter parents who watch their every move, Generation Z finds encouragement from parents who encourage independent thinking, want them to achieve on their own and are fed up with not receiving equal pay for equal success at work.
  • Forbes magazine wrote about social entrepreneurship being important to Generation Z, a group that is driven to volunteer and choose a career in which they can make a difference. On the other hand, there are those who hope millennials will become more civic-minded as they grow older, but it’s something that hasn’t been witnessed as of yet.
  • Generation Z was raised in classrooms focused on diversity and collaboration. Despite this fact, they tend to be more private than millennials, perhaps because they've seen the downfalls of oversharing.

Because Generation Z may feel pressure to gain corporate experience early, they are competing with millennials who are more likely to wait to gain that same type of experience. The good news for millennials, who are more likely to chase jobs in the corporate world, is that 72 percent of those in Generation Z wish to take what they learn and apply it to their own business, versus 64 percent of millennials who have the same goal.

Matt Stewart is co-founder of College Works Painting and an award-winning internship that offers high-quality house-painting services for homeowners.

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