According to Deloitte, by 2025, Millennials will account for 75% of the global labour force. But as Millennials and Generation Z are increasingly becoming a dominant element of our workforces, do businesses know how to align their demands with the younger workers’ expectations? This survey of thousands of young people carried out by General Assembly explains what generational differences there are and why young people feel the need to connect technology with humanity more than their older colleagues.

Only one year ago, employers were grappling with the tightest labour market in fifty years; today, due to the pandemic, tens of millions of people find themselves out of work. More still, the workplace’s demographic dynamics are also changing, as baby boomers retire in record numbers and younger generations with different priorities begin to reshape the workplace.  


While the pandemic will not last forever, its effects will certainly leave a lasting mark on the future of work. The resulting shifts are indisputable: workers are navigating new safety and health protocols and struggling to balance an always on culture in remote settings. Expectations of leadership are evolving in response to world shifts — employers are renewing their efforts to create equitable workplaces that promote an authentic and sustainable sense of belonging.


Survey conclusions: How young workers are reshaping businesses


To help employers understand how their demand aligns with career aspirations of workers, and to help them quickly ensure that hiring and recruiting approaches reflect the priorities and objectives of the groups that are quickly becoming the largest sectors of the economy (Gen Z and Millennials), the Adecco Group’s General Assembly surveyed in late 2020 and early 2021 2,000 U.S. adults.


The survey called Technology & the Future of Work: Next Gen Perspectives developed with the author and multigenerational work expert, Lindsey Pollak draws these conclusions:


#1. Young people look for purpose in tech


Despite unprecedented change and volatility, demand for highly skilled tech workers has not abated. Prior to the pandemic, U.S. companies had nearly one million unfilled tech jobs. Today, those trends have only intensified. But companies should be aware. To fill those tech jobs by younger people requires a different approach than what they’re used to.


According to the survey, purpose is at the forefront of career decision-making for Gen Z’ers. Young people are far less interested than older workers in pursuing skills or careers solely related to technology. In other words, tech for tech’s sake is over. Gen Z’ers look for a purpose in technology. This means that while they remain interested in technology, it’s usually in the context of fields that prioritise the “human element” such as UX design, and digital marketing.


This is primarily driven by the fact that younger workers identify ‘purpose’ and ‘passion’ as the second most important characteristic of their career decisions.  


Advice to businesses: Because of this sense of purpose and passion among young people, businesses should stop considering technology to be separate from the humans who use it. The way for the tech industry to attract the best young talent is to continually relate technology to humanity e.g. how cloud computing creates jogs, how blockchain protects people’s security, how data science helps to solve health, environmental and business challenges. Give young job applicants a clear explanation of how a given skills set contributes to the mission of the business – and its impact on society.


#2. Support ongoing skills training


The generational differences can also be found in terms of our life-long learning – particularly the one provided by employers. While the majority of workers of all ages believe that their employer has an obligation to support their ongoing training financially, Millennials (age 25-44) were most strongly in favour of training support from their employers.


It is interesting to note that when it comes to the type of support, workers were just as interested in nondegree certificate programmes as in traditional graduate programmes (e.g. MBA). Across all age groups, role growth support is a core retention value. Workers of all ages ranked “commitment to supporting my professional development to improve in a current role” as the most important factor in determining whether to stay at a company.  


Advice to businesses: make sure you provide middle-managers with outcomes-focused training. Millennials are increasingly likely to serve in middle management or early leadership positions and are likely to expect their employers to provide financial support for education.


#3. Refine “Fox & Hedgehog” skill sets


To showcase – and simplify – generational attitude differences, the survey resorted to the philosopher Isaiah Berlin’s famous essay, which differentiated foxes, who “know many things” from hedgehogs, who “know one big thing”. Millennial and Gen Z workers are significantly more likely than their older peers to report that they would rather develop a smaller number of skills and become highly specialized with in-depth, outcomes-focused training that is truly sustainable – a departure from generations past.



Advice to businesses: Cultivate “foxy hedgehogs.” The workers best equipped to navigate the shifting world of work will be both fox and hedgehog: they know a little about many things, and they know a lot about one or two subject matters. Yet, most young people report they want to be hedgehogs. This presents and opportunity for employers to support their upcoming workforce with deep upskilling and reskilling solutions that employees can apply directly in their day-to-day jobs.  


Download the full White Paper Here


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