Exploring #Connectedness: Millennials and Generation Z

From the book, ‘Exploring #Connectedness: Millennials and Generation Z (Published by thedoccheck.com 2021) ISBN:978-1-8383142-7-9

Darina Callanan, MA., and Susan McKenna, B.A. Dip. SocSci

“The young have become the pigeons of the public realm, only remarked upon for their poor mental health or when they leave litter in a park.”

— The Guardian 6.4.2021 Zoe Williams


This is the first in our series of volumes from our consulting staff and friends of our DocCheck.Com service based in Galway and Limerick, Ireland, on the theme of #connectedness. In this, we look to Millennials and Generation Z and explore themes pertinent to these specific cohorts. We recognise that global society is, to use a postmodern term, ’embedded’ in a technologically vast and volatile environment where the employability of workers is constructed on their levels of adaptability (Savickas, 2011). This has resulted in an increasingly fragmented world that, unfortunately, advocates separateness from the human condition where the virtual world is becoming the ‘go to’ existence.

We suggest an increasing and widespread sense of hopelessness with fragmentation of both the outer and inner worlds of Millennials and Gen Z, particularly regarding identity. On a positive note, there is a growing curiosity to locate meaning and connectedness.

With change comes possibility. Workplaces are dramatically changing as the global COVID-19 pandemic has altered everything for us, and we are all trying to make sense of this new terrain. While most organisations will enjoy the benefits of a multi-generational workforce, it is noteworthy to mention the requirement for regular feedback is particularly significant about managing a Millennial and Gen Z workforce whereby the need for validation and positive reinforcement has been driven by the impact of social media in their lives when compared to employees of other generations.

In this, there are winners and losers. Pre pandemic, we had witnessed the phenomenon of the rise of ‘influencers’ (Scully, 2021). We had seen an increasing interest in the environment and sustainability, in the ethical sourcing of food and the use of social media by Millennials and Generation Zers. Are these still core concerns just one year on from the first recorded cases of COVID-19?

At the time of completion of this first book in our series, it is evident that pandemic-related work shutdowns have disproportionately affected both Millennials and Gen Z, especially younger members. The recently published Deloitte Global Millennial Survey (2020) notes that ‘almost 30% of Gen Zs and a quarter of younger millennials (25–30 years old) who took our pulse survey in late April or early May reported either losing their jobs or having been placed on temporary, unpaid leave. At that point, about one in five millennials around the world had been put out of work.” (Deloitte, 2021: 1).


You’re going to frequently come across the word ‘Millennial’ in this book, and it’s a term that remains a little vague despite its pervasive use in the media. The word Millennial has gained currency in the past few years and refers to a generation that is broadly characterised by increased use and familiarity with three things; communications, media and, in particular, digital technologies. The term was coined some thirty years ago by Neil Howe and William Strauss. Depending on whose research you read, you’ll find the term denoting those born in the 1970s, 1980s and even into the 1990s. The U.S. Census Bureau defines Millennials as people born between 1982 and 2000, and the statistics are staggering. The research has two categories; younger Millennials aged 18 to 24 and older Millennials aged 25 to 36.

Up to 50% of Millennials living in the United States now consider themselves ‘content creators’, and 75% share content online. Their lives are lived out online. Seventy-eight per cent of Millennials would choose to spend money on a ‘desirable experience’ over buying something that is ‘desirable’. So, the message from the research is clear; Millennials love three things; creating, sharing, and capturing memories. Indeed, if we were to attempt to sum up, in a few words, the very diverse backgrounds shared by Millennials, it might well be in the phrase, ‘What’s the WIFI code?’ (MacGiolla Bhuí, 2018).

Millennials like to have access to communications. Smartphones and Tablets are now considered an essential and integrative part of their user’s daily routines, becoming a primary conduit for connecting with friends, family, gathering information, purchasing and gaming.

Mass communication is now an everyday reality, and Ireland has the highest rate of smartphone usage per capita in Western Europe. Facebook, Linked In, and Instagram, to name but three platforms, are at our fingertips, and we can upload and share photos, data and files in real-time. You’ll either love this or find it incredibly annoying.

Change is so quick, so deep, and so profound that one cannot blame teens and young adults for being confused. Everyone in this space needs to become informed – as informed as Millennials and Gen Z if this is possible. It seems to us that a large part of trying to understand Millenial and Gen Z mental health lies in both cohorts living so much of their lives through the filtered lens of virtual reality where every image is carefully curated and morphed until the very best image possible is sent hurtling out through cyberspace.

Millennials and Gen Z trust recommendations more from friends than any other source and regularly go online to confirm this. They enjoy digital coupon life in a way that is alien to those just a generation behind them. User-generated content on websites profoundly influences Millennials and Gen Z – as distinct from owners and supposed ‘experts’ or celebrity endorsements. And, why not when the average person now checks his or her smartphone 43 times daily. We need to get to know, intimately, the behavioural patterns of Millenials and Gen Z if we want to reach out to them and engage them successfully.


‘Generation Z’ (known hereafter as Gen Z) is the working cohort that is identified as those born after 1995 (Chillakuri and Mahanandia, 2018), comprising some 32% of the global population. Gen Z has come to the attention of multiple stakeholders, entrepreneurs, colleges, business leaders, and human resource practitioners as it is such an influential group (Chillakuri, 2020b). How interesting that Gen Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet. This generation ‘marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions and experiences’ (Sladek and Grabinger, 2014).

Current research that has sought to define the specific characteristics of Gen Z remains embryonic (Dwivedula et al., 2016), with contention around concepts and constructs in terms of understanding of the segment’s attitudes, preferences and behaviours (Chillakuri, 2020).

Gen Z is the first fully digital generation, and with over 61 million Gen Zs coming into the workplace, you better be sure things are about to change (Cummings, 2016). According to a recent survey carried out by Deloitte, employers will need to have a new mindset when it comes to Gen Z (Gomez et al., 2019). The upcoming generations will not be interested in the traditional workplace practices of office-bound 9 am to 5 pm. That much is sure.

With Gen Z coming into the workplace, employers need to familiarise themselves with what Gen Zs want and expect from the workplace (Bassiouni and Hackley, 2014). A characteristic continually associated with Gen Z is being connected through high-tech technology – and communicating over existing social media platforms (Adecco, 2015). It is essential for employers to change the way of ‘sending emails and make the communication in the workplace more personal for the new Gen Z employees. Many people might assume that Gen Z is somewhat lazy. Still, interestingly, in a recent survey with 400 Gen Z college students, 80% of the students stated that they would still work even if they had enough money to live comfortably (Coogan and Crowley- Henry, 2020).

The real question here is, do we know what this Gen Z will bring to the workforce? There is very little known about the current generation’s attitudes, characteristics, needs and working style. Gen Z will be a strong workforce, and there may be implications with Millennials and Gen Z with their different views and behaviours about the workplace (Jiří, 2020). Sladek and Grabinger (2014) expressed the critical difference between Millennials and Gen Z; thus, “Gen Y is full of dreamers; Gen Z is full of realists”. The idea that success is about trying to complete a task rather than meeting it creates a sense of artificial entitlement. No wonder Millennials are questioning their reality and trying to reshape it in a way that makes sense from within their somewhat limited context (Housel, 2017).

Dr Jean Twenge, a Professor of Psychology at San Diego University, wrote about Generation Me in 2006 and explored what is understood to be Millenial culture when she located a notable cultural shift in the mid-1970s public-school curriculum in the United States. Thus, the oldest Millennials were aged between 39 and 40 years old in 2017. The last year of the “Baby Boomers,” also known as the “me generation,” is officially 1963. Anyone born after 1964 through the mid-70s is called “Generation X” (Housel, 2017).

Writing in Mental Health for Millennials in 2017, US-based scholar, Rebecca Housel, observes that post-modernism acknowledges the importance of every individual through their positionality. But, let’s conclude on a welcome finding from the Deloitte 2020 Survey, which found “Despite the individual challenges and personal sources of anxiety that millennials and Gen Zs are facing, they have remained focused on larger societal issues, both before and after the onset of the pandemic” (Deloitte, 2020: 9).

References and Suggested Reading

Adecco (2015). Generation Z vs. Millennials. USA: Adecco.

Bassiouni, DH, Hackley, C (2014). “Generation Z” children’s adaptation to digital consumer culture: a critical literature review. Journal of Customer Behaviour 13(2): 113–33.

Bencsik, A., Horvath -Csikos, G. & Timea, J., (2016). Y and Z Generations at Workplaces. Journal of Competitiveness, 8(3), pp. 90-106.

Bernier, L., (2015). Getting ready for gen Z. Canadian HR Reporter , 16 November , p. 1.

Cates, S. V., (2014). The young and the restless: Why don’t Millennials join unions. International Journal of Business and Public Administration , 11(2), pp. 107-119.

Chillakuri, B. and Mahanandia, R. (2018). Generation Z entering the workforce: the need for sustainable strategies in maximizing their talent. Human Resource Management International Digest, 26(4), pp.34-38.

Chillakuri, Bharat. (2020). Understanding Generation Z expectations for effective onboarding. Journal of Organizational Change Management. ahead-of-print. 10.1108/JOCM-02-2020-0058.

Chillakuri, Bharat. (2020b). Examining the Role of Supervisor Support on Generation Z’s Intention to Quit. American Business Review. 23. 408-430.10.37625/abr.23.2.408-430.

Cummings, C (2016). Video killed the TV star: Gen Z turns away from traditional TV and embraces digital. ADWEEK 57(9): 11.

Deloitte, (2021). The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020. Resilient generations hold the key to creating a better normal. Deloitte.

Dwivedula, Ravikiran & Bredillet, Christophe & Müller, Ralf. (2016). Personality and work motivation as determinants of project success: the mediating role of organisational and professional commitment. International Journal of Management Development. 1. 229. 10.1504/IJMD.2016.076553.

Housel, R. (2017). Let’s talk about sex baby: Millennials and sexuality in the US. Mental Health for Millennials, 56-69, Vol 1. Galway: Book Hub Publishing.

Iorgulescu, M.-C., (2016). Generation Z and its perception of work. Cross-Cultural Management Journal , 18(1), pp. 47-54.

Kutlák, Jiří. (2020). Motivation Drivers and Barriers of Generation Z at Work: Mebs Method. 322-331. 10.7441/dokbat.2020.27.

Manpower Group, (2016). Millenial Careers:2020 Vision Facts, Figures and Practical Advice from Workforce Experts , s.l.: Manpower Group.

MacGiolla Bhuí, N. (2018). The Search for self-identity and flow in the millennial space: Filtered incrementalism. Mental Health for Millennials, 14-22, Vol 2. Galway: Book Hub Publishing.

Merriman , M., (2015). Gen Z: The Next Big Disruptor. WWD, 210(6), p. 86.

Mitchell, K., (2016). We Are All Gen Z— and Y and X. HR Magazine , 61(10), pp. 18-19.

RTE, 10.1.2020.  https://www.rte.ie/brainstorm/2019/1003/1080884-meet-your-new-workmates-generation-zs-views-on-work-and-careers/Reporting on a study by Coogan and Crowley- Henry. Accessed April 2nd 2021.

Savickas, Mark. (2011). Constructing careers: Actor, agent, and author. Journal of Employment Counseling. 48. 10.1002/j.2161-1920.2011.tb01109.x.

Scully, M. (2021). This volume.

Singh , P., Rai, S. & Bhandarker, A., (2012). Millennials and the Workplace: Challenges for Architecting the Organisations of Tomorrow. 1st ed. New Delhi: Sage Publications.

Sladek, S and Grabinger, A. (2014) Gen Z. The First Generation of the 21st Century Has Arrived.  https://www.xyzuniversity.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/GenZ_Final-dl1.pdf

Stuckey, C., (2016). Preparing Leaders for Gen Z. Training Journal , pp. 33-35.

Suleman , R. & Nelson, B., 2011. Motivation the Millennials: Tapping into the potential of the youngest generation. Leader to Leader, 2011(62), pp. 39-44.

Thompson, C. & Brodie Gregory , J., (2012). Managing Millennials: A Framework for Improving Attraction, Motivation and Retention. The Psychologist-Manager Journal , 15(4), pp. 237-246.

Tulgan , B., (2013). Meet Generation Z: the second generation within the giant “Millenial” cohort. Retrieved at http://rainmakerthinking.com/assets/uploads/2013/10/Gen-Z- Whitepaper.pdf ed. s.l.:Rainmaker Thinking.

Twenge, J. M. (2006). Generation Me: Why today’s young Americans are more confident, assertive, entitled–and more miserable than ever before. New York, NY: Free Press.

Tysjac , K., (2017). Get ready for Gen Z. Journal of Accountancy , 224(2), pp. 1-2.

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