Generation Z (Born free) is not Millennials

Generation Z (Born free) is not Millennials

The next generation has entered the workplace. They have just completed their undergraduate studies and are passionate about the role they want to play in the workplace and the broader South African marketplace.

This generation was born after 1994, and have been called Generation Z or within the South African context they are also called the Born-free Generation.

It will be a very big mistake to cluster them with the Millennials as they are not just the next wave of young Millennials.

The 10 biggest differences between these two generations are as follow:

1.      Realistic versus Optimistic

Millennials became optimistic, thanks to their encouraging parents that believed and dreamed in the future of a prosperous and democratic South Africa. The Gen Z however is more realistic, as they grew up after the creation of a free and democratic South Africa. They were told from a very early age that they are the Born-free generation but they have not experienced the changes as promised. The changes in our country does not reflect the vision and dreams for a new South Africa. The young generation had a rude awakening and as result they developed a more realistic view. They will not believe empty promises. They will reserve their view until they have actually seen and experienced it.

Do not make promises to this generation in order to attract them to your company. Rather allow them to speak to current employees that will show and tell them the truth about the company culture.

Companies that have a company culture that reflects their values, will be more attractive than companies that window dress.

2.      Value of Authenticity and Independence

When Millennials were in school, brand names were very popular. T-shirts, jeans, shoes and accessories with the hottest brands was how they showed their fashion sense and status in society. Now that the Millennials are adults, they are willing to pay more for their preferred brands.

The Gen Z do not want to be defined by any brand than their own. They want to celebrate their independence and they use social media to find communities where they feel they belong. They are thus more interested in finding brands and products that feel and look authentic and represents their independence. They are not interested and attracted to marketing that show models in a photoshoot as they are looking for content that is real and attainable not overly polished. The Gen Z would rather follow influencer marketing in order to tap into the trendsetters that reflect real experiences and authenticity.

Companies that want to attract Gen Z employees should focus more on actual employee experiences and conversations than a polished add representing the ideals of the company.

3.      Cautious about Saving and Spending Money.

The Gen Z saw how their parents struggled through a lot of uncertainty during the transition of South Africa to a democratic state. They also experienced a lot of the challenges accompanied by the inequality in financial wealth distribution. This has created a big desire with them for a better future for themselves and their families.

For a lot of families this generation also represents the first generation in their family that completed their undergraduate studies. Unfortunately this is placing a lot of responsibility on this generation to support the extended family and share in their successes and financial gains. This will cause them to be more careful with their money and they are prepared to work harder and longer.

Millennials are professional online shoppers. They use their technology to shop anywhere, anytime. However the Gen Z actually prefers to shop in stores as they value the actual experience to feel and see the products. This combined with the actual instore experiences of free make-up classes, testing of products for example vape flavours will attract this generation.  A great example of how this works in reality is the new Mr. Price store in Sandton.

4.      Digital Integrators not Digital Natives

Millennials were introduced to technology during their formative years, and they have developed a dependence on technology. The Gen Z grew up in a world where smartphones and the internet are the norm, which makes them truly tech savvy. This generation do not know a world that operated and worked differently, therefore they use technology for everything in their lives from doing homework, communicating with friends and family and shopping.

Where Millennials would have been a bit more forgiving when they engage with employers and companies with a slow technology adoption rate, The Gen Z will very quickly look for an alternative that meet their specific needs.

5.      They want to make a difference

Millennials have been called “the entitled generation” . Yet the reason for this is that millennials are not seeking a life-long career to pay the bills. They want a job with a purpose and to do something meaningful in life.

If you want to keep your millennial workforce content and productive, your company should focus on empowering workers and explaining to them why they should care, stressing how each team member contributes to the overall success, and praise more individual efforts rather than team accomplishments or managers only.

Although the Gen Z wants to be paid a competitive salary, they believe it is important that the work they do should have a greater purpose than money.  They have been part of a new democratic South Africa, where they have been promised a better future. Therefore anything is possible to them, and they are passionate about making a mark on the world.

They have also experienced the news broadcasts and concerns that were raised in the media on the future of sustainability of our planet. In South Africa they experienced the declined in SA economy and the decay of our service infrastructures across the country.  As such they will be looking for companies that they think can make the world a better place.

6.      They are motivated by Money, and will work hard for it.

Work is not everything millennials want in life. They would like to have time for their friends, family, hobbies, and other small pleasures and pastimes. They work to live, not live to work. That’s why the concept of lifestyle business is growing and have gained popularity over the last 5 years. . Millennials want to combine their passion with profit and work long hours on projects they feel passionate about, rather than helping someone else reach their profit benchmark

Although The Gen Z definitely want their jobs to be more than just a salary, they are still motivated by cash. Gen Z is willing to do whatever it takes to get the best job. If they think it is worth the sacrifice to move to another province, work nights or weekends, no question. Once they like the reputation, leadership and culture of a company, there is not much they would not do for them.

7.      Collaboration, Flexibility and Open workspaces.

Both the generations are used to constant contact and engagement via social media with their friends.

The work environment should create opportunities for collaboration and engagement with their work colleagues to bounce off ideas and brain storm solutions.

The Millennials do not want to be confined to a cubicle when they are working. They want space to move around in and collaborate with their colleagues.

The Gen Z however developed a belief in “If you want it done rights, then do it yourself” They will be more competitive and will embrace this do-it-yourself mentality at work. They would prefer to have their own workspace with option of privacy rather than share it with someone else. When they however want to brainstorm ideas and solutions they want to move around and have free access to their colleagues and managers.

To attract the Gen Z the company must also provide a technologically advanced, collaborative workplace that matches the “always ON” generation, with the option of privacy and own space.

8.      Private versus Public

Millennials were the first generation that experienced social media. As a result they did not understand the risks with regards to personal reputation when they share everything via these platforms.

The Gen Z saw how the previous generations had to manage the challenges with reputation and privacy and as a result they are more calculated and selective with the information they share online. If you speak to the Gen Z they will tell you that Facebook is for old people as they prefer a platform that respects their safety and security. This generation have gravitated towards Snapchat, Instagram and You tube where they can control their posts.

In the work environment the Millennials shared all their personal information and salary information with their colleagues and private information was discussed openly. The Gen Z want the company to respect their privacy and manage their information and personal data in safe and secure platform.

9.      Face-to-Face engagement versus Digital only engagement

Millennials were the first generation with internet exposure and they pioneered many of the digital communication platforms, that have made the workplace more efficient and effective but most would argue less personal.

The Gen Z however wants to use all their senses in their engagement experiences. (Sound, sights and motion). They have a much shorter attention span (8 seconds) and the experience therefore have to be powerful and impactful to grab their attention and get the message across. They are positioned as the ideal generation to finally strike the right balance between online and face-to-face workplace communications.

10. Role hopping versus Job hopping

Millennials grew up in times that created an on-demand culture, with immediate responses. This means they have very little patience for stagnation or delays especially when it relates to their careers and their personal development. This combined with their focus on money and independence resulted in high turnover rates at companies.

The Gen Z however will approach the work experience very different in that they would not want to miss out on any valuable learning and growth experience. This will results in them aspiring to flex their on-demand learning muscle by trying out various roles and projects inside the organization.


Although Gen Z will be the youngest generation in the workplace, they do not want to be treated as if they cannot make a valued contribution to the company. Do not talk down to them. Take their opinions into consideration and always listen to what they have to say. Because they think differently, they might have unique ideas that no one else in the company would’ve thought of. Give them the chance to show you what they can do, and include them in the conversation.

But just because they have shorter attention spans and prefer learning visually doesn’t mean they’re less valuable as employees.

Generation Z has the potential to change the professional landscape. Take interest in their workplace values and help create the workplace of tomorrow. They’re setting the pace for the future of working.

For more information on our services and how we can assist you please contacts us via our website

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.