How the Millenniums and the Z generation find themselves in the agile world
25 February 2020

The labour market changes every time a new generation arrives at it. Such a phenomenon is currently observed in connection with the entry of representatives of the youngest generation into the labour market, i.e. generation Z. But before we look in more detail at the millenniums and generation Z, let us try to look at all the generations whose representatives are still professionally active.

Baby Boomers (also known as the baby boom generation)
Let’s start with the oldest part of the population still present in the labour market. The representatives of baby boomers are most often referred to as people born between 1946 and 1964. This post-war generation, which, depending on their place of residence, grew up in a period of growing wealth, increased desire for education and increased consumerism (e.g. North America or Western Europe) or continued to fight for the so-called “better tomorrow”. (e.g. Central Europe, Asia, Africa). Baby boomers were the first generation to start earning income in workplaces and could fully satisfy the most urgent needs (i.e. food, clothing or roof overhead). They expected as a generation that the world would systematically change for the better over time. However, for several decades they had practically little to do with advanced technology. Much of this generation has already retired.

Generation X

Demographers most often specify the membership of generation X, after the date of birth between the mid 1960s and early 1980s. Generation X is more ethnically diverse and much better educated than the baby boomers. They are characterized by their independence, resourcefulness and self-sufficiency. They value autonomy in the workplace, freedom and responsibility. The X-generation mentality defines the transition from a productive to a service economy. It was the first generation that grew up with computers around them, technology began to be inextricably intertwined in their lives. Many representatives of this generation were more flexible in the labour market because they could see with their own eyes how sometimes their parents lost their hard-earned positions in companies. As a result, “Iksy” are less committed to one employer and more willing to make the changes to which they adapt well. They are willing to learn new things, but they like to achieve goals on their own terms. Unlike baby boomers, the X-generation works to live rather than live to work.

Generation Y (Millenniums)

People born between 1982 and 1995 are currently the most represented generation on the labour market. As with previous generations, the Millenniums have also been shaped by the environment in which they grew up. It’s all about the ubiquitous technology and the conviction they have gained that they should use it to better perform their respective tasks, although some of them can still remember the times without it…
The millenniums of today have been armed with laptops, smartphones and other electronic gadgets that guarantee them uninterrupted communication with the world 24 hours a day. They like to communicate with the outside world electronically using: e-mails, text messages, chats, video or social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). This is a generation that cannot imagine life without the Internet or mobile phones. There have even been studies where 46% of the respondents stated that their employees belonging to the Millenniums and Z Generations want company-wide employee communication platforms with the same functionalities as social media portals [Millennials are the hardest employees to engage, say HR, DiversityQ 2019].
However, what is equally interesting, the growing chase in professional life has become increasingly important for them. The Millenniumals are ready to give up high wages in exchange for a work-life balance. A recent YouGov study on a sample of 1000 respondents showed that the Millennium generation prioritises work-life balance over job security, study finds, 2018]. The same results are confirmed by Ernst & Young, claiming that the millennium generation is more likely than other generations to give up promotions, change jobs, cut wages, and even change careers to achieve greater flexibility in private life. [How can millennials achieve a work-life balance?, World Economic Forum 2015]. Cherished by parents who did not want to make the mistakes of the previous generation, the millenniumals are confident, ambitious and goal-oriented. They are a generation that leaves no one behind, they are loyal, dedicated and committed. They value teamwork, give a lot from themselves and expect the same from others. So much so that 71% of Millennials Want Their Co-Workers To Be A ‘SecondFamily’, Business Insider 2013].
Millionaires need feedback – both praise and encouragement and information about the need for change. They appreciate the policy of open communication and want to be up to date. Thanks to this attitude, they can benefit greatly from having mentors to help them manage and develop their talents. This is confirmed by the Gallup survey [How Millennials Want to Work and Live,, 2018] showing that the Millenniums do not want typical, prescriptive bosses, rather coaches and mentors. The baby boomers may be useful here, because (although they may be retired) they may still have something to offer, as well as the X generation. Millennium mentoring is one of the ways in which it can contribute to the quality of work and the development of the workforce. It is one of the still growing trends in the market. Another interesting discovery of the Gallup survey is the fact that the Millenniums want continuous feedback instead of annual evaluations. They often like to receive confirmations of the chosen direction or possible suggestions for changes. Such an attitude definitely fits in with agile approaches, where communication and regular feedback is an essential element of every iteration, usually lasting from 1 to 4 weeks. Forbes also takes a similar view, pointing out that the millenials do not want an archaic management system that dictates rules and sets limits – this generation wants mentors to guide and inspire them [The Millennial Workforce Needs Mentors, Not Managers Forbes, 2018]. Mentoring based on nurturing relationships quickly builds employee trust and loyalty that cannot be built with a raise or one-off bonus… This is inextricably linked to the definition of a clear goal of work. The millenniums, inspired by their work and sense of action, can work hard and efficiently. PM partners explained the principles of the notion “Do not manage” when talking about their company. They said that the real leaders of today should:

  • Maximize value by strengthening teams and providing them with the support they need on an ongoing basis,
  • Get involved or keep teams busy with work that makes sense, ensuring that people are fully involved in what they do (according to the Deloitte study, only 1 in 5 millenniums without a perceived goal is satisfied with the work),
  • Other principles are Cooperation, Equalising Opportunities, Transfer (flexibility through better use of technology) and Mentoring [ManagingMillennials in Project Management, Change and Transformation Consulting Roles, PM-Partners 2018].

For the millennium, the workplace is also of great importance. According to the Deloitte 2016 Millennials study:

Forbes goes even one step further here and recommends that companies allow millenials to choose their own style of work, including working remotely at home, in a cafeteria or outside of standard working hours (e.g. at night) [The Millennial Workforce Needs Mentors, Not Managers Forbes, 2018]. I think it’s worth taking this more seriously. The employer’s initiative can quickly be seen, for which employees will be grateful, and this will translate into productivity, savings on both sides and increased employee happiness. There have been many recent studies on happiness, the satisfaction index, etc. It is no longer known from today that employees of various specialties will do their job best when their basic needs are met and the working environment will help them to be satisfied with what they are doing. Promoting satisfaction in the work environment means creating opportunities for valuable relationships between colleagues. For example, a 7-person agile team should create a synergy effect together and ultimately not just be the sum of 7 people [ Was 2017 a stressful year? Happy workers are 10% more productive at work, 2018] [Millennials Are Happiest When They Feel Connected to Their Co-Workers, Forbes 2018].
The potential downside of generation Y workers is that they are naturally looking for something new and better. It’s not uncommon for the millennium to remain in the company for only two/three years before they change their position to one that they believe will be better. Unlike previous generations, the millenials do not take up a job and then keep it as long as possible. Instead, they show entrepreneurship, look for new challenges, new quality and/or set up start-ups. The most common reasons for leaving work are dissatisfaction with the salary they receive, lack of opportunities for development, lack of satisfaction with their work or lack of opportunities for further learning and development within the organisation.

On the other hand, there is a CBRE report, which showed that most of the 62% of the Millenniums surveyed would prefer to change jobs as rarely as possible. It follows that if employees have a job that challenges them, offers development and builds their advanced skills, there is a high probability that they will remain in that position indefinitely [What millenniumals really want in the workplace, CBRE 2018]. Interestingly, the millenniumals may have their own concept of power in organzation. Jamie Gutfreund of the Intelligence Group claims that generation X sees the boss as an expert – someone who has acquired hard and long experience and skills and requires respect.
“The millenials think they can come in on the first day and talk to the CEO about what they mean” Shara Senderoff, CEO of Intern Sushi
These differences in thinking style make it clear that they need to know this knowledge in advance in order to be able to communicate with each other efficiently. In addition, the Millenniums can approach their superiors more equally than previous generations – following the principle of a flat hierarchy. We bow here to the concept of turquoise organisations where there are no hierarchical structures about which a dedicated post can actually be written. Millenniums have high expectations towards their employers, at work they look for challenges, they are not afraid to question the authorities.
“Learning from the generation of millenniums and inspiring them is more important than telling them what to do” president Adecco and UAE minister in a conversation about leadership 4.0 during the World Economic Forum 2019
. To sum up, the Millenniums value agile approaches very highly because they emphasize the flat management mentioned above, flexible working environment, self-regulation of teams, iterative and incremental approach to work and the overall ability of the organization to adapt quickly to changing needs and demand.

Under the umbrella of agile approaches (shown in the above figure) it can be seen that for years now, the triumphs have been continuously celebrating their triumphs based on the empirical scrum process, designed to work in short sprints together with a highly motivated team of experts. The end of a sprint means that each member of the team shares his or her participation in the progress of the work with the stakeholders, usually receives feedback and can learn the plan for the near future. The Millenniums are then looking for the satisfaction associated with the value provided by the work done and the short and medium term goals. In a truly agile environment, Generation Y feels part of a larger whole and it is their commitment that produces results. [Millenials trive in agile Ron Kroeger, 2018]. I will say that I personally belong to the generation of millenials, I work with millenials from different European countries on a daily basis and definitely what we have in common is a similar worldview and shared values to those presented above.
Finally, a comment from one of the scrum trainers should not miss who writes about the 5 things he learned by teaching scrum among the millenials.
“Teaching a group of millenials – motivated, talented, young adults with low income – was an instructive experience that also ended up teaching something about being a scrum coach, and about the future of software development. Steve Porter,
I’ll quote these 5 things to you below:

  1. It is easier and more enjoyable to teach Scrum to optimistic and open people
  2. A predictive approach to problem solving is intuitively stupid if you’ve never done it
  3. Millenniums inherently like to solve problems
  4. The Millenniums have a high emotional intelligence that supports agile
  5. Some features are typical for different generations

Nevertheless, while remaining objective, it must be said that the world does not end on scrum, and in order to effectively manage projects in an agile way we also have other approaches (lighter or more complete than scrum), tools or proven solutions at our disposal. The choice must be decided individually by each organization, based on their business realities, to decide or test what works best. Deciding on any change should always have a predetermined goal!

Who are the Z

The answer does not have to be so obvious, because these are conventionally people born after 1995 and currently between 16 and 24 years old. They are just taking their first steps in adulthood or even entering it. However, it is definitely characteristic for them to grow up together in the era of ubiquitous Internet, mobile technologies, etc. This generation is definitely the first to have never seen the world without smartphones and social media. Forbes wrote in a report that Generation Z has had iPads literally since they are only able to grab something in their hands [Generation Z: 12 Important Things Companies Need To Understand, Forbes 2017]. I can admit it from the autopsy looking at my 12-year-old son… So will Generation Z be familiar with technology enough to make software programming the easiest in the world? We’ll see, time will certainly show!
How does the Z-generation spend its free time according to research? An interesting fact is that currently it is traveling and exploring the world that is at the top of the list (57%) of aspirations, according to a Deloitte survey. Individuals from these years were also more interested in having a home and making a positive impact on their communities or society as a whole (46%) than having children and starting a family (39%) [Deloitte Millenial Survey 2019].

Generation Z will want to deal with the failures of existing projects in order to become more innovative. More than 80% of those surveyed in Generation Z believe that coping with the failure of a project will help them to become more innovative, and 17% of those surveyed believe they will be more comfortable taking new risks, according to the latest survey of 1400 Generation Z. Generation Z is not afraid to make mistakes, especially when they are able to learn from them. This fits very well with the concept of prototyping promoted by agile approaches, devops and UX. It is definitely better to test the hypotheses and iteratively reach the target solutions rather than “open fronts in many places at once”. If so, it is easier to come to terms with so-called “cheap failures” than to risk the failure of entire projects. Based on the above research, we can assume that the generation will certainly find itself in agile project management approaches, which seem to be even created for them, but I am sure that they will evolve further.
The Z generation (97%), like the Millenniums, is open to receiving feedback on an ongoing or after the completion of a major project or task [Gen Z Keen To Embrace Failure On Projects To Become More Innovative, Forbes 2018]. Such a high percentage of the population makes it clear that there is a need for continuous, efficient communication. I think that this is a very positive trend, because it will make us all work even more closely together in our teams/companies and potentially increase the frequency of contact with our customers and users. The immediate feedback will allow us to immediately reflect on the quality of the product, the adopted style of operation, the solutions, models and technologies used. It will allow organizations to gain confirmation that what they are doing makes sense or needs to be modified and customers receive products that are more and more “tailor-made”. Companies have already started to adapt to the requirements of generation Z.

This generation will check how efficient organization really is. Their motto: be sociable, mobile and agile will definitely put today’s management models to the test. 
We can already observe Polish companies under pressure from the rapidly changing labour market due to the influx of young staff. It is not only in the IT industry that there is a constant battle for the most promising talents. Creativity, knowledge and quick learning are becoming more and more important in everyday work, organizations need a distinctive offer of value propositions to win and keep the best people. These “quick learners” often have diverse, unconventional thinking and experience, but they can also have different aspirations [The five trademarks of agile organizations McKinsey, January 2018].
More than 12 important things that companies need to understand in the near future as the job market changes and how to target their staff in the years to come.

  • Technology is their way of life. Although some limitations will be needed, employers should recognise that technology is for a generation with a source of comfort and encourage them to work through technology platforms and applications that will allow it: increased productivity, effective project management, remote working and distance learning. At first glance, spend the benefits for all parties.
  • They want flexibility and freedom of innovation. Leaders must understand that. They will need flexibility and independence in thinking about processes so that they can develop and be used optimally. Traditional processes, policies and standards will tend to limit them.
  • They’ll want to invest time in one-on-one meetings. On the one hand, ubiquitous access to technology, on the other hand, they will want to put technology aside to establish direct cooperation with their leaders. They want to take time to discover their strengths. It is worth supporting them in this!
  • They want environments in which they can develop. In short, places where they can work efficiently with satisfaction from their own results, have a clear goal and autonomy of action.
  • They were shaped by social and economic influencers. They are entrepreneurial, innovative, problem-solving people, looking for a goal-oriented job that responds to social changes and the desire to travel while working. Recruiters in companies should understand this early enough and try to respond to these needs. Are the ideal candidates for the consultant profession 🙂 ?
  • You can’t bribe them with “cool things”, such as a well-equipped office, etc. They want recognition of their creativity and creativity in real business projects.
  • They want a clear path to professional success and fulfilment. When working with Generation Z, leaders must rise to heights, be visionaries of their own. This is a generation that has a set of expectations about what their career should look like.
  • They need different methods of communication, the challenge for leaders will be to look for gaps between the way different generations of employees communicate their message to others.
  • They don’t want a traditional hierarchy in workplaces. Just as the Millenniums opposed old models of workplace management in favour of a leaner hierarchy and greater autonomy, the Z generation is likely to follow in their footsteps.
  • They lead the way in change and adaptation, accept uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity much better than older generations, so agile approaches will be their natural choice!
  • They are “drawn in” and need constant stimulation, on the one hand they will drive your business with creativity, enthusiasm and expecting reward, but at the same time expect unlimited access to technological solutions and constant stimulation of motivation to act.
  • They should not be treated in a stereotypical way, leaders need to know about the strengths, values and skills they need in their teams and how to recruit, hire and nurture people who will be able to meet those needs.

In conclusion, it seems that the Z generation will strengthen many of the qualities and trends initiated by the millenniums. And it will certainly introduce its own, which we will be able to observe with our own eyes for many years to come…  
T H E F U T U R E I S B R I G H T !

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