All change in the world of work: Gen Z is coming!

By Helena Pumberger, 04.04.2023

It must be flexible, but also meaningful, and well paid, with a flat hierarchy and a varied range of responsibilities – that’s how the new arrivals in the world of work from Generation Z sum up their job requirements. What makes Gen Z tick and how do employers need to adapt to them?

X – Y – Z … who is who?

All kinds of letters and terms are used to describe different generations, but who belongs where? Generation Z (Gen Z for short) normally covers anyone born between 1996 and 2010. The predecessors of Z were, obviously, Generation Y, born between 1981 and 1995. People born between 1965 and 1980 are usually referred to as Generation X. Before that, there were the baby boomers, from 1946. So far, so good. You can see from these categories that Gen Z are just at the starting blocks, about to enter professional life.

The status quo

Unlike many earlier generations, Gen Z grew up in affluence and with countless opportunities open to them. They have used mobile phones, computers, and the Internet since they first started school. Prosperity enabled their parents to give them all kinds of support and encouragement. Consequently, finding the right kind of job training is very important to them. They are also more willing to break off their studies or apprenticeships and start something new. So Gen Z has different expectations of their lives and jobs – spoiler alert: work is no longer the highest priority. According to the business magazine “brand eins”, fewer than 9 million people were born in Germany around the turn of the millennium. This makes them a very small group – and that in turn leads to a shortage of future workers. That’s why it’s now companies which are advertising for potential employees, and not the other way around. And that makes it easier for Gen Z to assert their demands.

What are their expectations?

So what is important to Generation Z in their working life? Top of the list, according to a survey by the Statista research department, is a good work/life balance. 84% of the 18 to 23-year-olds who were questioned, all over the world, said that it was important or very important to them to have a healthy balance between their work and their free time. Work as an end in itself, to earn money, is no longer the highest priority. Leisure, family and self-fulfilment are the key factors for the young generation. Nevertheless, the financial aspect does still play a key role. After all, 87% of those questioned said that they regarded good pay and other benefits as essential. 76% also want flexible working hours and the option of working away from a traditional desk. For Gen Z, working from home, remote working and a creative working environment are not additional benefits but a matter of course. Furthermore, over 80% said that variety in their work, and the opportunity for what they did to make a significant difference, were crucial when choosing a job and employer.

So what can be done?

Offering a basket of fruit, the chance to work from home and a cafeteria are no longer enough to attract the future generation of workers. HR managers must come up with new ideas to appeal to Generation Z. Business trips, part-time working, annual leave entitlement upgrades and regular employee events score highly – especially when combined with more free time, more purpose and more team spirit. Gen Z also values flat hierarchies, a direct approach, coaching and further training.

Then, once a Gen Z employee arrives in your company, it’s a question of keeping them. How do you do that? HR experts recommend, above all, open communication and regular feedback – both praise and suggestions for improvement. Generation Z also loves a challenge and taking responsibility for their own areas of a project. And, as we’ve already said, what’s really important is to accept their need for a good work/life balance. Members of Gen Z want to be able to draw a sharp dividing line between their job and their private life, with a clear conscience.

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