Expenses management for Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z

Kate Fletcher

May 12 ∙ 6 minutes read

With employees increasingly working well beyond 70 and school leavers entering the workforce, it’s been well documented that today’s workplaces are having to manage five different generations. Each with very different characteristics, motivations and demands, the need to adapt working processes, including expenses management, to multiple generations simultaneously shouldn’t be overlooked. 

While there will never be a single approach for everyone, what employers can do is look at each generation’s unique financial, spending and digital habits – and then how this affects the way they deal with business expenses. 

To help you ensure your company’s processes and policies meet the needs of your multi-generational workforce, below we discuss three generations and what they’ve come to expect of expenses management from their employer. You can also view a summary in this infographic.

Gen X (known for being independent and sceptical)

Generation X, born between 1965-1979 and currently between 40 and 54 years old, make up almost 40% of the workforce. Despite claims that Gen X tends to avoid technology, 67% of Gen X report using a laptop daily and when it comes to their financial management, they prefer email as a channel.  

This means that managing work processes such as expenses management through a computer won’t be an obstacle. However, if their preferred communication is via email, they’ll expect to receive important information about their expenses in this way. An automated expenses management system ensures email reminders are sent immediately, for example, when expenses need approval or are being queried. This ensures those submitting the claims are kept informed along the way, leading to a better expenses management experience.

When it comes to their spending habits, Gen X has extreme brand loyalty and as a result, are more likely to spend more with high-value brands. This may impact their choices when it comes to the expenses they incur throughout the course of business travel. 

In this instance, it’s important not to stifle Gen X employees with static expense policies. While empowering them to spend the money as if it were their own may not work, team consensus is fundamental to this generation and so using an expenses management system that immediately calculates the impact of travel expenses on revenue, could ultimately prevent overspending. 

By tracking how costs relate to revenue and understanding ROI, it may also mean that investing in larger expenses better aligns with business objectives, therefore ensuring Gen X employees aren’t restricted.

Millennials (or Gen Y who seek regular feedback)     

Millennials are the generation born between 1980-1994, currently aged between 25-39 years old, they are predicted to make up 75% of the workforce by 2025. This generation adopts technology quickly and comfortably with almost 100% of Millennials using the internet, 70% owning a laptop  and significantly, nearly a quarter being smartphone-only internet users. 

For a generation used to an always-on, mobile-enabled business environment, out-dated and manual paper-based expenses management processes aren’t going to cut it. Providing Millennials with technology that improves their day-to-day lives at work, including travel and expenses, is key to creating a better workforce experience. Easy to use, automated expenses technology that allows them to manage their claims in one place and accessible via mobile, will ensure they don’t become frustrated with the manual methods the previous generation were used to – and allows them to focus on higher-value work. 

However, Millennials are statistically less well-off than older generations which means businesses need to be aware of the financial pressure incurring expenses for work could have. Automated expenses management technology that can immediately process claims will reduce the risk of employee frustrations and financial anxiety impacting productivity. It also improves their workforce experiences by promoting financial wellness. 

This also means that they tend to take a more frugal approach to spending compared to Gen X. Two-thirds of them say that they’ll switch brands if they’re offered a discount of at least 30%. This may have a positive impact on expenses as a result of business travel as Millennials are more likely to choose the more cost-effective options. 

Gen Z (the true “digital natives”)

Gen Z is the ‘new kid on the block’, born between 1995-2015 and currently aged between 4-24 years old. They may only be a small percentage of the workforce but their numbers are quickly rising. Gen Z are the “true digital natives”. Even faster to adopt technology, they are far better at using it – and demand it. Nearly half of this generation would rather have working wireless than working bathrooms.

Having access to modern, cloud-based technology systems that streamline working processes is critical to Gen Z employees and to the managers wanting to retain them. Whereas the older generations may have more patience with expense management processes that are time-consuming and manual, speed is a necessity for Gen Z. In fact, 60% say they won’t use a slow app or website. The newer breed of AI-driven expenses management systems will not only allow them to manage all business expenses in one place, but it will also appeal to their need for immediacy by providing them with real-time updates on approval and reimbursement. 

McKinsey states that Gen Z are willing to “mobilise themselves for a variety of causes”. They are socially, economically and environmentally conscious like no other generation before them. As a result, they consume as a matter of ethical concern which invariably affects the spending choices they make when required to travel for work. Their first question is likely to be: ‘do I even need to travel?’ Gen Z employees will also be looking to their employer for more sustainable options and so a system that not only predicts when travel is or isn’t critical but displays carbon emissions data, is key to supporting them.

Lastly, and unsurprisingly, Gen Z logs significantly more phone time compared to other generations (2x more than Millennials) and is more likely to purchase, research and browse on phones. So, to help them manage expenses management efficiently, it’s also key that they can access information on their phones, ideally via a purpose-built mobile app. 

How to manage the needs of a multi-generational workforce isn’t new

Businesses are already responding to how each generation differs in their interactions, work and spend. Although automated expenses management software is just one example of how businesses can meet the financial approaches and technology needs of Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z, it’s a critical one in serving employees at every age – for the benefit of the business.  


Kate Fletcher