Report: Generation Z and millennials have different expectations around tech preferences

When it comes to tech selection, Gen Zers and millennials differ from older generations in five key areas, a new Forrester report finds.

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Seventy-four percent of the workforce will be comprised of millennial and Generation Z workers by 2030. Technology will play a decisive role in satisfying the next-gen workforce, but both groups have different expectations of what they want, according to a new report from Forrester.

Age doesn't always correlate with employees' tech preference the way other data types do such as role, geography, seniority and socioeconomic status, the report, "The Forrester Guide To Equipping The Next-Gen Workforce," noted. 

These are the areas organizations should concentrate on when it comes to planning their employee tech strategy, Forrester said.

"An over focus on age can also leave you open to lawsuits, decrease engagement and mask the changing expectations that occur as employees move through different life stages," the report said.

SEE: Virtual hiring tips for job seekers and recruiters (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Age-based demographics can be incomplete and problematic

Organizations should also avoid the "classic stereotypes" made about millennials' inherent laziness and entitlement, their addiction to social media and inability to focus due to multitasking, Forrester warned.

"Hyperbolic reports on the rise of the entitled millennial and the distracted Gen Z worker foretold a revolution in technology enablement based entirely on meeting the needs of these two generations," the report stated. "While demographic data is helpful for anticipating some future technology trends, its usefulness is, at best, limited and, at worst, dangerous. In a high-stakes business environment in which companies must increasingly compete for talent with technology, a strategy that overemphasizes the importance of age is a potential disaster."

Gen Z and millennials want choice when it comes to tech selection. The report suggests five factors aside from age that it believes will help companies improve the tech experience for the new workforce (Figure A).

  • Hardware: One-third of Gen Z workers who prefer to use a laptop for work want a two-in-one laptop as their next machine, compared with just 23% and 17% of Gen Xers and baby boomers, respectively.
  • Software: Younger workers still use core productivity tools, but not as much.
  • Security: Younger workers are more likely to circumvent security policies in the name of productivity; 46% of Gen Z workers want to choose the security software their device uses, while just 20% of baby boomers feel the same.
  • Privacy: Twenty-three percent of Gen Zers and 21% of millennial workers are concerned about their company accessing personal data on personal devices they use for work, compared with just 14% for Gen Xers and 9% for baby boomers.
  • Mobility: While Gen Z workers are less likely to work at home, they're more likely to work in a variety of locations, such as co-working spaces, while commuting or in multiple locations in the office. 

Figure A

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Image: Forrester

Focus on the other data types

The more helpful data types for enabling a workforce are role, which is generally more aligned with employee needs than age; geography, which can also define tastes for certain technologies; seniority, which often grants access to more expensive tech options; and socioeconomic status, where annual income can also reveal stark differences in areas such as satisfaction with work technology, the report said.

In the latter case, for example, information workers with a high school degree or lower are less satisfied than those with a college degree or higher, the report said. A discrepancy between income and education levels can extend to operating system preference: 34% of information workers who make more than $150,000 a year prefer macOS for their next work laptop compared with just 20% of those who make less than $30,000 a year, the report said.

SEE: The biggest COVID-19 burnouts: Gen Z (TechRepublic)

Additionally, to improve employees' tech experience, companies must embrace five key processes: conduct vigorous research, build personas, personalize the experience, monitor the digital experience continuously and prepare for constant change.  

"By 2030, technology leaders will have to grapple with a workplace in which three generations hold a significant proportion of the working population, but one in which Gen Z and millennials dominate,'' the Forrester report said. "The key to success will be understanding the future needs of Gen Z and millennials, while also ensuring that Gen X workers have the right technology to stay engaged."

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By Esther Shein

Esther Shein is a longtime freelance writer and editor whose work has appeared in several online and print publications. Previously, she was the editor-in-chief of Datamation, a managing editor at BYTE, and a senior writer at eWeek (formerly PC Week)...