Millennials and Gen Z: Setting The Pace For Education and The Workplace

If you think Generation Z are a kind of ‘Millennials-lite’, you’ve got it all wrong. The youngest generational cohort have clear differences in terms of their skillsets, professional aspirations and unique workplace concerns and needs. But if there’s one thing Gen Z and Millennials have in common, it’s that they’re an unstoppable force, re-shaping today’s educational and job market practices and norms.

But beyond the tired stereotypes of avocado toast and skinny jeans, just who are the Millennials? Likewise, who are Gen Z, and what does their emergence forecast in terms of traditional university studies and professional recruitment?

We put these questions to University of Nicosia (UNIC) Senior Admissions Counsellor, Galina Constantinides

Could you give us a brief description of who we’re talking about, when we say ‘Millennials’ and ‘Generation Z’?

“According to Oxford Learner’s dictionary, Millennials are in their late 20s and 30s; they are the children of Baby Boomers , numbering approximately 72 million of the global population. Millennials were born in an economic boom and prosperity, and are now entering their mid-career years.”

“Whereas Gen Z are today’s teenagers and people in their early 20s; they are 67 million strong, and widely forecast to become the largest age group globally. Gen Z were born in economic recession, which greatly impacted on forming their characteristics. Importantly, they are now entering university and the workforce.”

What would you say are the main values and interests of Gen Z, as a generation, in contrast to Millennials?

“Millennials are typically known as the ‘me’ generation, where focus is on the self. They were raised for the most part by helicopter parents, nurturing all their needs; they are idealistic, confrontational, and less willing to accept diverse points of view.  They see work as a calling rather than a job and are looking to make an impact, many of them becoming vegan, fighting for human rights and racial equality.

“In contrast, Gen Z is the most diverse generation of all. Diversity is their norm, they are true digital natives, and they are comfortable multi-tasking – texting, listening or viewing videos, while doing other tasks – and are pragmatic. They are good at saving, and started earning their own disposable income from an early age, becoming entrepreneurs as early as 13 by streaming and earning on YouTube and TikTok, and becoming influencers and politically progressive with widespread outreach.”

“All the above usually means that Gen Z are savvy customers who will go for a strong and satisfying consumer experience, whereas Millennials are more committed and loyal to a brand.

What were the skills and aspirations of Millennial freshmen, as compared to Gen Z freshmen?

“Gen Z are generally interested in learning, are competitive, strong-willed and focused on their vision. They grew up in financial difficulties; as a result, they are ambitious to achieve their goal and get the job done, with a strong will to be successful.

“Millennials place more emphasis on the learning experience to grow, be part of a team and benefit from collective learning.”

Does technology familiarity help or hinder the confidence of Millennials and Gen Z students while at UNIC?

“As pioneers, Millennials’ familiarity with technology helps and builds their confidence and strong skills to utilise in their workplace to be successful.

“Gen Z are born into it; as technology advances, programming, and an adeptness with new technologies such as Virtual Reality and blockchain and other skills are required. At UNIC, we provide a solid foundation of technical skills through our  courses, to further enhance their confidence to enter the job market.”

What are some of the challenges and concerns your Gen Z students have about their later professional life? And how are these similar or different from those of UNIC’s Millennial students?

“Millennials are typically team-oriented, learning in collective and team environments, whereas Gen Z have been mainly exposed to online learning due to the pandemic – they are looking for new ways to learn and hands-on experiences, to trigger that interaction that they are lacking.

“So, the challenge [for educators] would be how to offer a better experience, to employ new learning methodologies and add hands-on experiences.”

In terms of skills, what would help Gen Z students transition to the workplace?

“Multi-tasking is one important skill that Gen Z possess, which will enable them to work simultaneously on different projects, be efficient, and have a stellar end result.

“Problem-solving, critical-thinking, innovation and creativity are also required to prepare students for all aspects of work. In addition, organisations will require the ability to deal with ambiguity and complexity, and communication will play the most important role.

“Gen Z will have to find alternate ways of communicating, as they are so distanced from each other through technology.  Business ethics and communication, digital and IT skills will all better prepare them for the work environment.”

What do Gen Z expect from prospective employers, and how is that different or similar to the expectations of Millennial professionals?

“From the employers’ perspective, Gen Z will expect continuous learning – most of their learning has been on YouTube and online – so their growth on the job will happen through learning, and continuously growing. It’s important to provide new ways of learning that include hands-on experience, diversity and inclusion: they want to feel accepted, that their voice is heard to offer value to their organisation.”

How do you believe Gen Z will change Cyprus’ work culture?

“We are seeing these small-to-medium businesses becoming multi-dimensional companies in Cyprus; organisations will have to offer this new learning experience to facilitate Gen Z growth in their profession. They will demand new learning, which will be a challenge for the Cyprus work culture.

Mental health is another important area that organisations will also have to incorporate, and to facilitate work and life balance for their employees. “According to McKinsey, almost 60 per cent of Gen Z are more likely to view mental health resources as critical when selecting and deciding to stay with an employer.”

Would you say the Cyprus workplace is meeting the concerns of Gen Z jobseekers and employees?

“Organisations are improving; there is space to improve and grow further. I am confident that the Cyprus work culture will continue to change and evolve and that local organisations will be able to grasp this task and deliver at a higher level.

“Gen Z will definitely learn – utilise every opportunity to learn – and dive deep to become experts and professionals in their best version.  Both students and jobseekers should strategise their studies, and work through materializing and building toward their strategies to reach their career goals.”