Newbie on the job market – who is generation Z?

August 31, 2016 Sascha Grosskopf


For years, every trade and business journal and online magazine has been endlessly and intensively talking about generation Y.


That’s old news now.  The next generation has already begun to hit the workplace. But they are also different. We are talking about… drum roll please…gen Z. According to the official definition, gen Z includes anyone who is currently between 12 and 20 years old, i.e. they were born after 1995. The oldest members are now making their first steps into universities or onto the job market. In contrast to their predecessors, though, they are starting out with better job prospects due to the lack of skilled workers.


Companies are wringing their hands, desperately looking for young, qualified workers. The demand significantly exceeds the supply. According to a current Manpower Group survey, 38% of employers are struggling with a lack of skilled workers. Companies are having to reject contracts as a result. This new generation seems to be aware of this, making other “special” demands for their job and their employers. There is an emerging consensus that gen Z possesses a new sense of self-awareness in the world of work. Unlike the gen Ys, they seem to value regulated work times and permanent contracts, admittedly with consistently high flexibility. They follow the motto free time is free time; the biggest differentiator between them and gen Y.


Disloyal and demanding


Loyalty towards employers is sinking. There are even claims that gen Z is more loyal to their trainer brands and mobile operators. So how can employers tie future employees to their company, if commitment requires loyalty? The easiest means to retain employees was and still is through continuously providing interesting tasks, modern work tools, flexible working hours, flat hierarchies and more recently, sabbaticals. Put simply, fun at work. Gen Z want varied tasks whilst also having more independence.  Who doesn’t want that?


Managing multiple generations


To be attractive employers, companies must adapt to the needs of this generation. This is no different than for their predecessors. Every new generation has brought with it new requirements for the workplace. Sometimes these have been fulfilled and other times less so, with certain companies being more successful than others. That will be no different in the future. It will always be important to create awareness of each generation’s needs.


In order to successfully ensnare gen Z, their specific requirements have to be taken into account throughout the whole of the talent management process, starting with recruiting. A gen Zer who sees the clear hierarchies of the civil service and big companies as an attractive career option, is no longer lured in by the possibility to work from home. They want to distinctly separate work and free time. Above all, small and mid-sized companies need to have a structural re-adjustment to attract the new gen Z. It is particularly important for learning methods and content to be revised and re-structured to combat issues of low concentration and the eight second attention span.


However, it would be costly to only focus on gen Z. In every company, multiple generations have to co-exist next to each other. The challenge is not so much dealing with the needs of one generation but rather dealing with those of all employees. How to help transfer management know-how and encourage collaboration between generations with different priorities and values. 


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