Recently I wrote about the subject of information overload which sparked online and offline conversations about various workforce generations and productivity. Are the more recent generations such as the millennials and generation Z more productive?
Let’s start by considering a few key points. The first is that what separates the generations is not so much about age, but it is about differing values and beliefs. The second point is that the most recent generations have been taught differently and perhaps learn differently, and the third is that when compared with the earlier generations much of the millennial population and all of the generation Z population have predominantly known information access at their fingertips on a computer or cellular phone.
My belief is that when you consider productivity you have to ask yourself, “Productive at what?” Most people will likely connect productivity with the ability to accomplish one or more tasks in a timely manner. The person who can do this with little or no error in the shortest time is the most productive.
If we agree on that, then the question still remains, productive at what?
Knowledge and Entitlements
If we were to generalize about skills in the workplace one argument could include the idea that those who have been in the workforce longer will have more skill, but those representing the more recent generations may bring additional knowledge of the subject matter.
When it comes to entitlements in the workplace traditionals and baby boomers believe that they are entitled because they have more experience and the millennials and generation Z people believe that they are entitled because they have more knowledge.
Does this have anything to do with being more productive? Likely, yes, it does.
Consider baking a cake, learning to play a musical instrument, or building a bookcase, if we have two human subjects both with about the same amount of resources, knowledge, and experience who will be more productive?
It seems to me that the best answer is the person who will use their resources the most efficiently and effectively to learn the skill, apply the skill, and then be able to repeat the process becoming more productive as they build more skill.
I must confess that from my experiences, with all things being equal, the millennial generation would most likely (I’m generalizing of course) be more productive.
Millennials More Productive
A millennial or Gen Z’er who has developed a reasonable level of problem solving skills will most likely locate the resources for learning (consult an expert, watch a video, find documentation online) faster and more efficiently as compared to the baby boomer.
They will think about it differently because their espoused values and core beliefs are likely different. To help illustrate this point, a baby boomer might seek to find a book or ask a friend and the millennial or generation Z person is already watching a video.
Are millennials and generation Z more productive in today’s workplace?
I believe it depends on many factors and most of the factors would not be equivalent across the generations. The earlier generations might have some advantage with life experiences that the most recent generations have not had, but it is reasonable that a person from any generation can be highly productive with the proper resources and training.
Are you interested to learn more about the generations?
I wrote this book to help.
Dennis E. Gilbert is a business consultant, speaker (CSPTM), and culture expert. He is a five-time author and the founder of Appreciative Strategies, LLC. His business focuses on positive human performance improvement solutions through Appreciative Strategies®. Reach him through his website at Dennis-Gilbert.com or by calling +1 646.546.5553.
This article was originally posted on October 26, 2016, last updated on November 18, 2019.