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2021 > Letnik 11, št. 4


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Differences between generations have existed since time immemorial, but they have probably never been as obvious as they are today. At present as many as four generations are facing each other at work places at the same time, each with their own habits and expectations, that are often difficult to reconcile. Consequently, the relations between them are very complex. It takes a lot of adaptation, understanding and tolerance on the part of everyone. Consumer habits are also changing radically between generations, moving from shopping in traditional shops with consumer goods to online shops. The digitalization of shopping habits has also been greatly accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has also affected the generation of traditionalists. Advertisers must also follow and adapt to the changing consumer habits of the future generations.
Key words: Generations Y and Z, labour market, advertising, shopping habits

Razlike med generacijami obstajajo že od nekdaj, a verjetno še nikoli niso bile tako očitne, kot so danes. Trenutno se na delovnih mestih soočajo kar štiri generacije hkrati, vsaka s svojimi navadami in pričakovanji, ki jih je pogosto težko uskladiti. Posledično so odnosi med njimi zelo zapleteni. Potrebnega je  veliko prilagajanja, razumevanja in strpnosti s strani enih in drugih. Korenito se spreminjajo tudi potrošniške navade med generacijami, nakupovanja se iz tradicionalnih trgovin z izdelki široke porabe seli v spletne trgovine. Digitalizacijo nakupovalnih navad je močno pospešila tudi pandemija COVID-19, ki je vplivala tudi na generacijo tradicionalistov. Temu morajo slediti tudi oglaševalci in se prilagajati spreminjajočim se potrošniškim navadam prihodnjih generacij.
Ključne besede: generaciji Y in Z, trg dela, oglaševanje, nakupovalne navade

Among the topics we deal with in the course English for Specific Purposes in the study courses Economics and Media Production there are also employment, marketing and advertising, and ethics in advertising. We discuss different forms of employment, advertising and shopping habits over time. We find that what was relevant to previous generations of young people has become completely irrelevant with the development of technology today. I became very attracted to the topic, so I decided to explore it in more detail.

The differences of the younger generation were first noticed and thought about by HR and company managers. Two factors led to this thinking.
On the one hand, we are facing an ageing population and the accompanying aging of the workforce. The aging process of the population is also strongly felt in Slovenia. With a modest number of births, longer life expectancy and slower mortality, the age structure of the population changes: the share of children decreases (0-14 years = 15.1%), the share of the working age population increases (15-64 years = 64%) and so is the share of the elderly (65 years and older = 20.9%) (Republika Slovenija Statistični urad, 2022).

In addition to the fact of population aging and the aging of the labour force, the difference between the representatives of the younger generation, who began to enter the labour market, also began to be observed. The question therefore arose as to whether the younger generations would be able to work with the older ones in the workplace and vice versa.

Four generations are currently meeting in the labour market, which has not happened so far.
The purpose of the research was to examine how the representatives of Generations Y and Z (also referred to as Gen Y and Gen Z) communicate with the representatives of older generations and what is the reason for their (slightly different) ways of communication. With the help of literature, I studied what are the characteristics of Gen Yers and Gen Zyers and what is their added value in the labour market. Since my job involves, my goal was to find out if the findings I came to from the literature review also apply to them. I found this out using a short survey questionnaire.

Four generations are currently meeting in the labour market: Generation X, Generation Y (millennials), and Generation Z (zoomers) which has also started to enter the labour market, each with its own needs and expectations. As a result, the relationship between them is very complex.

Among the first in Slovenia to write about generational differences in the workplace, was Daniela Brečko, who has spent most of her career in business education and consulting. Already in a paper from 2005, she pointed out that employers will have to deal with generational differences and get to know and understand the values of different generations (Brečko, 2005).

We took a closer look at the characteristics of the following generations (year of birth and period may vary depending on the source):
1 Generation of "veterans" - traditionalists (born in the period 1922 - 1943)
2 Baby boom generation - children of abundance (born in the period 1944 - 1960)
3 Generation X - the first to start working with computers (born 1961-1980)
4 Generation Y - millennials (born 1980-1994)
5 Generation Z - indigo children, zoomers (born in the period 1995 - 2012)

Differences between members of different generations are primarily a response to the social environment in which they grew up. Thus, it is characteristic of "veterans" that for them work is an important value, they value order, rules and authority, they feel the need to pass on knowledge to younger generations.

It is similar with the representatives of the "baby boom" generation, with the difference that their work values were formed during the period of economic development. They acquired work habits from their parents. They are very hardworking, they like to work in a team, want social security, like taking risks, they have exchanged their family for a career. Both, personal and professional growth mean a lot to them.
In Generation X, however, there is a noticeable decline in traditional values. These are representatives of the generation that did not have sufficient contact with their parents, either due to their overwork or divorce; as a result, they identified more with their peers than with important adult individuals. They strive for a balanced lifestyle, they want to have time for family and hobbies, they do not know work ethic. They swear by diversity, want informal relationships, and are already thinking globally.

Entering the labour market, Generation Y introduced confusion among other generations. Millennials have grown up surrounded by technology and an explosion of information and stimuli. They grew up sending messages, so they prefer written communication to face-to-face or telephone conversations. They lack social and work skills as they received a permissive upbringing. They want confirmation of how important they are, they like praise, do not tolerate criticism. They are very capable, but they lack work habits and discipline. The Internet has enabled them to connect with the global environment and master the English language.
Generation Z are children who are mostly still in schools and colleges today, but are slowly entering the labour market, so there are still many unknowns about what they will be like when they are fully involved. By 2025, they are expected to represent 75% of the workforce (Delakorda, 2019).

They are born into technology - smartphones, tablets, plasmas, high speed Internet communication. They expect quick responses to their messages. They get practically everything at birth and influence their parents' purchases, for them the latest digital toy is important. A large amount of information results in shorter memory and quick forgetting. They have many different skills and avoid problems by fleeing into the virtual world.

In the research Intergenerational Communication, conducted by Daniela Brečko, already in 2008, wanted to find out how representatives of different generations think about each other, in what way (if at all) they strive to create intergenerational coexistence and how they deal with conflicts (Brečko, 2008).

Active listening is one of the main conditions for successful communication, and the generation of veterans was the most trained in this skill. Their advantage is also testing of understanding - how their message was received by the interlocutor. Veterans therefore communicate extremely carefully, resenting if their conversation is disrupted e.g. with phone calls. In the workplace, they place the greatest importance to direct communication, i.e. conversation. Relaxed conversation means a lot to them, so they like to chat and joke before tackling serious issues.

Unlike veterans, the baby boomers are very rational in their communication. Long chat is a waste of time for them. They appreciate the clarity and unambiguity in what is said. However, they pay close attention to non-verbal communication, especially important is eye contact. When communicating in the workplace, they are already making more use of modern communication tools available online.
With Generation X representatives, the interlocutors feel that they communicate only when they have to. They often use foreign words and seldom check to see if the person on the other side understood them. They are most angry when they are interrupted. Compared to veterans, they rarely make an effort to cheer up and relax their interlocutor with a joke.

The most visible feature of Generation Y representatives is that they communicate less and less directly and use electronic means of communication, often with several interlocutors at the same time. They use a lot of slang, foreign words and symbols. The attention to the interlocutor is very small compared to members of other generations. They do not check if the interlocutors understood them. An interesting finding from the research on intergenerational communication (Brečko, 2008), which shows that there are no conflicts between them, which otherwise arise due to incomprehension or misunderstanding of messages. They swear by positive communication, they do not tolerate denials and prohibitions. With them, the interlocutor can achieve a lot by encouraging and argumentative communication.

Generation Z is the first fully digital generation, more diverse, more educated. Authenticity and openness mean a lot to them. There is not much difference between what they are in real life and what they are in the workplace. They like open communication and personal interaction - for them personally, also means talking via Zoom. In any case, Generation Z is already leaving its mark.

An active approach to learning about the characteristics and needs of representatives of different generations is necessary for intergenerational coexistence and cooperation. Interestingly, the representatives of Generation X admit that they do not know other generations well enough and want to get to know them better. They systematically socialize with representatives of other generations, interfering with social networking. They connect with others through modern means of communication, and they also try to get to know them with the help of professional literature.

Different generations also resolve conflicts in different ways. Conflicts are an indicator of the intensity of intergenerational communication. Research has shown (Brečko, 2008) that all generations are aware of the importance of face-to-face conversation in resolving conflicts, with the help of which they try to determine its causes and resolve it. However, there are different approaches to resolving conflicts.
Veterans swear by personal conversation and little attention to create a positive climate. Representatives of Generation Y, however, prefer to resolve the conflict through e-communication channels. An impersonal apology via email is of great importance to them. However, even for them, in the most critical moments, direct conversation comes into play as the most effective means of resolving conflicts (Brečko, 2008). Generation Z like open communication and are more direct.

"Today's youth is impossible: lazy, passive and irresponsible. Completely unambitious and not independent. They expect that everything will be brought to them on a golden plate." (Ćurić, 2008, 43).
Interestingly, this quote is a transcript from the wall of an Egyptian pyramid. Obviously, every generation gap brings a critical, if not carping, assessment of the representatives of the other (younger) generation, which has been dragging on, so to speak, since the beginning of humanity.

However, it is necessary to be aware that the characteristics of both and their attitude towards the environment were largely influenced by the upbringing of the representatives of Generation X. Ćurić (2008) mentions quite a few differences between Gen Y and Gen X:
1 They are brought up differently. Due to the unpleasant memories of their parents about hard upbringing, they received permissive upbringing and an abundance of praise which of course affected their self-confidence and positive self-image.
2 They grew up in a different environment than their parents. If parents were still growing up in "survival frames", millennials were already growing up in "quality frames", i.e. in a society that operates on the principle of "to have, to succeed, to be important".
3 They have completely different values than their parents. Values such as effort, work, modesty, … are forgotten and increasingly important are success, recognizability, wealth, …
4 Authority is not self-evident to them. They do not care about the amount of formal power an individual, a leader, has. Authority is recognized only after checking if someone has deserved it.
5 They experience time differently. They do not want to wait for something to happen in the distant future. The "now and immediately" principle is important to them.
6 Their work habits may be questionable. Permissively raised children were not required to participate in household chores and responsibilities. As a result, they have difficulty starting the work process, sticking to longer work processes, repeating established procedures, and correcting their own mistakes.
7 They tolerate dissatisfaction poorly. They have a very strong desire to experience satisfaction, fun and enjoyment.
However, their values differ according to the social environment from which they originate. In Slovenia, according to statistical data, the registered unemployment rate among young people in the age group 15-29 is 9% (Zavod Republike Slovenije za zaposlovanje, 2022).
On the other hand, they are distinguished by different moral values. It is precisely among the representatives of Generation Y where there are the most proponents of civil action. They have a keen sense of sincerity and do not mince matters (Brečko, 2005).

As already mentioned, the population in the developed world is aging. Such a demographic situation and development require fundamental social changes in the field of employment as well. The need for longer employment is very pronounced. However, as lifelong employment is disappearing at the same time, people are forced to look for opportunities in entrepreneurship and self-employment. The way of doing business requires different forms of work, especially the project way of working, contract work and supplementing employment. The possibility of advancement and growth is more important to them than job security and stability, and they have high expectations regarding pay from the very beginning.
Due to future labour force shortages, people will have to work harder, but their earnings will also increase. Zers are supposed to be ready to start work before the end of their studies, as this will be an opportunity for them to become independent. As careerists, they value the opportunity for personal growth and advancement and, of course, expect high pay. They are well versed in the world of modern technology and communication, they are good at networking, information retrieval, resourceful and ambitious, but on the other hand they welcome mentoring and like project work (Data, 2016).

How does the above fact coincide with the characteristics of both generations?
Both millennials and zoomers have quite a few benefits for employers.
They are very flexible in terms of working hours, which is a great advantage for today's business environment requiring a project-based way of working. They are very suitable for this way of working because they do not feel loyalty to the company, but to co-workers. Thus, they work well in a team.
If the job is fun, they are both willing to spend a lot of time at work, even at the expense of their free time. Money is not their priority. They are available to the employer as they are “online” most of the time.
They are among the most educated generations, as they have access to a wide range of information due to technology, they are fluent in foreign languages. They are the so-called multitasking generation, doing multiple things at once. They can be very innovative and creative.

They set high goals, but it can take longer to achieve them because they do not have manual or craft skills.
If they get clear instructions and see the point in the work, they do the set tasks very well. But they need real-time feedback and praise.
And last but not least, they are "native users" when it comes to using ICT technology. This fact and creativity enable them to be good designers of information solutions. They are also very enterprising.
When members of Generations Y and Z decide to take a job, pay is not the most important factor for them. The company's commitment to broader social commitments such as sustainable development and climate change is important. In a survey conducted by Deloitte, almost half (49%) of respondents said they wanted to work for employers who would work based on the values and ethics of the organization. After two years of uncertainty over the Covid-19 pandemic, they are determined to take control of society's most pressing issues, namely health care, environmental protection, and climate change (Deloitte, 2021).
The number of companies in the ICT sector is growing, and in 2020, according to SORS, both sales revenue and added value, the number of employees and the self-employed increased. In Slovenia, 29,985 people worked in 9,038 companies (Republika Slovenija Statistični urad, 2020).

The founders of these companies are representatives of the Gen Y, among whom there are already Gen Zers. If we look at business incubators in Slovenia, the tenants there are young entrepreneurs who are mainly engaged in ICT activities (computer programming, consulting, gaming industry, Internet of Things, web content management, …).
The question arises as to whether the situation in the economy and the labour market is due to the characteristics of today's youth or whether the characteristics of today's youth reflect the situation in the economy.

The baby boom generation has a lot of purchasing power but shopping is not taken as relaxation. They like transparent shops and quality. They are receptive to traditional marketing strategies (TV and print ads) and prone to spontaneous purchases. On social media they can be found on Facebook.

Generation X have children, have to pay the bills, are always in need of time and looking for ways to save. They love bargains and discount coupons. They still prefer to go to the store rather than shop online. They are found on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, are susceptible to marketing via regular post or email. Of all the generations they are the most loyal to brands.
Millennials have an aversion to traditional ways of marketing. They know what they want and they do not need someone telling them to buy their products. They review ratings and opinions online, ask others about their experience. Most of their purchases are made online and they are big users of social networks.

Generation Z responds to social media marketing when they make purchasing decisions, look at Instagram or Snapchat. They are immune to classic advertising messages and trust more  someone who expresses their opinion, e.g. influencers. They value financial stability and are responsible consumers. They have given up watching television, but watch digital content on their phones, tablets and laptops, and live on YouTube. If a brand represents some value, they will buy it and quickly replace it as well. Advertisers need to write in a way that is close to them (emoticons, abbreviations). Some well-known brands are already communicating with this generation in this way.

I am a lecturer at a vocational college and before that I also taught at a secondary school. In my work, I was meeting with representatives of Generation Y for more than ten years, most recently with representatives of Generation Z, secondary school and college students. Already at the start of my career in the field of education, I noticed that I was dealing with a population that was quite different from my expectations which were, of course, due to the projection of my secondary school years.

Many times, I asked myself what would need to be done to be able to communicate and function normally with young people. Of course, I did not know anything at the time about any intergenerational differences, let alone Generations Y and Z.

It immediately became obvious that I had to put in quite a bit of effort to get their attention and to establish authority. I found that I needed to be positive, encouraging in communication and give praise when they deserved it. Fortunately, this was not difficult for me, because I also felt respect for them and I was always happy to show it.
After a while, I started reading research papers on the topic of intergenerational differences. I learned about the characteristics of today’s adolescents, the so-called Generation Z. I was very attracted by the topic and so I decided to prepare a blog for the learning process, in which secondary school and college students could read a post about the characteristics of Zers and think about themselves. Finally, they were able to comment on the content of the lesson on the blog. Interestingly, in most cases, comments were made showing that they disagreed with the statements in the article and that they did not have the typical characteristics of the Zers identified in the articles.

Since this has happened for several generations in a row, I prepared a questionnaire to find out how high school and university students identify with the definitions describing them by the profession that deals with the characteristics of Generation Z.
I conducted an online survey with students of the Economics and Media Production courses, using the Google Forms tool. I received answers from 114 secondary school and college students from the Novo mesto School of Economics. The short online questionnaire contained closed-ended and open-ended questions.

In the first set of questions, I was interested in how the attention of respondents is distributed in certain situations.
1 When I learn or do homework, I listen to music. 30 respondents (26%) answered yes, 56 (43%) listen to it sometimes, and 28 (25%) answered that they do not listen to music.
2 When I watch TV, I browse the Internet at the same time. 30 (25%) always browse the Internet at the same time, 56 (49%) do so occasionally, and 28 (25%) never.
3 Which statement best reflects your habits? 3 (3%) browse the phone all the time in the company of friends. 76 (67%) sometimes browse the phone even when they are in the company of friends, and 35 (31%) respondents fully dedicate themselves to their friends’ company.

More than three quarters of the respondents perform at least one other activity during certain tasks (in this case, learning, watching TV, socializing). I got confirmation of the claim that Zers are a “multitasking” generation, so they do several things at once.

The second set of questions related to the targeted behaviour of adolescents.
1 To achieve the goal of learning, work, … I set a plan. 81 (71%) respondents answered affirmatively, while 33 (29%) denied it.
2 When I set a goal, I achieve it. Yes, always, answered 61 (54%) respondents, 45 (39%) achieve a goal only when the path to it is easy, and 7 (6%) answered no, because they do not try hard enough.
Gen Zers plan their goals and in most cases achieve them. The results agree with the definition that it may take longer for Zers to achieve their goals. This coincides with the fact that they do not have manual or craft skills.
In the next set of questions, I was interested in their attitude to work.
1 On my career path I would like to have a varied (creative) job answered 99 (87%) respondents, while 15 (13%) would like a regular job with prescribed procedures.
2 I like working in a group. 92 (81%) answered affirmatively, while 22 (19%) disagreed.
The vast majority want to work in a vibrant environment that encourages creativity. Also, most of them confirmed that working in a team suits them.
In the fourth set of questions, I was interested in the attitude of Gen Zers towards the elderly.
1 I respect older people because they are older and automatically deserve it. 97 (85%) answered that for the most part, 15 (13%) disagreed with the statement and believe that the elderly should gain respect through actions, and 2 (2%) answered that they mostly do not respect them.
2 To the question Which statement applies to you? - I want to show my abilities to older people and I want older people to find out my abilities on their own, the answers were as follows: 74 respondents (65%) want to show their abilities to older people and 28 (25%) want older people to find out their abilities.
The answers in this set do not confirm the fact that it is difficult to build authority with the Gen Zers, as the vast majority respect those older than themselves. Even they like to make an effort to prove themselves in front of the elderly.

More than three quarters of the respondents perform at least one other activity during certain tasks (in this case, learning, watching TV, socializing). I got confirmation of the claim that Gen Zers are a “multitasking” generation, as they do several things simultaneously.

Generational diversity is just one segment of the diversity we encounter in the work environment. People differ in gender, skin colour, ethnicity, profession, experience, family situation, …
In order for representatives of different generations to be able to work successfully together or participate in the business environment, it is necessary to build on flexibility and tolerance, i.e. to create an open and respectful communication culture. For some time, managers of big companies have already been aware that employees are their biggest competitive advantage.
It should be noted that it is necessary to communicate in a different way with young people entering the labour market today. We should be aware of their advantages and get the best out of them. They are creative, motivated, resilient, loyal to the environment in which they feel good, direct, sincere and excellent users of ICT technology.
The main finding is that representatives of the Y and Z generations have a lot of added value for employers if they recognize their potential and direct it in the right direction.
Consumers’ shopping habits have changed radically with Generations Y and Z and moved online. When advertising their products companies also need to adapt to this. If the representatives of the baby boom and the X generations are still responding to traditional ways of advertising, and are clinging to traditional shopping, this has in a way also changed and digitalized with the presence of COVID-19. In any case, advertising to Generations Y and Z will be successful by the thoughtfully created content of the message, which means that its original purpose is not to sell, but to inform customers, provide help, learning or entertainment.

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