In this case study, we look at a situation that managers are often confronted with today when they have employees in their team who are in their early 20s and belong to the so-called Generation Z.  

The leaders mostly come from Generation X or Y and have a completely different socialisation than the “young” ones who follow. 

The most frequent statements I have recently heard from “seasoned” managers on this topic were: 

The “young” no longer want to work.  

  •  Being available all the time, working overtime or even at weekends to continue a project could be more regarded. Free time is essential and put on the back burner only very reluctantly.
  • The “young” are “social media damaged”. Before researching and asking more experienced people, they “google” or search for a solution on YouTube. In any case, they usually go it alone instead of exchanging ideas with others.
  • As a company, we have to apply to the candidates instead of them applying to us. The most important thing for them is to have a feel-good atmosphere so they come to the company first. 
  • The “young” have their own ideas of what they are worth and demand partly utopian salaries. 

Do these statements sound familiar?

Generation Z is different from previous generations. They have grown up in a sheltered environment, and most have close ties to their families. Moving around in virtual space is usual; social media are part of everyday life and are used to exchange, present oneself and interact with friends on the one hand, but also to provide oneself with all the information one needs. 

For managers, dealing with representatives of Generation Z is not always easy because their attitudes and approach to the job and life differ significantly. Adjusting to the next generation and their needs can be challenging. 

Suppose you want to bind representatives of Generation Z in a company longer; it is essential to offer flexible working time models. Full-time employment is no longer the goal for many. 

At the same time, the company needs experts who are accessible to the customer and who react flexibly to the customer’s needs. If a company can manage this balancing act well, it is guaranteed an advantage.

Collaboration models that mean shared responsibility for customers can help with this issue. Team-building measures that strengthen cohesion in the team and promote the common assumption of guilt are crucial help. 

At the same time, managers must critically question their beliefs about whether top performance is “only” made possible by employees giving their time, even beyond the agreed working hours. 

It is often difficult to recognise the different needs of the “young” and to seriously consider what these employees need to perform to their full potential.

If managers do not react flexibly here, the representatives of Generation Z will leave the company again relatively quickly because the classic commitment to the company with career opportunities is usually not a big driver for young people. 

On the one hand, a cooperative approach and relatively flexible, agile cooperation settings suit representatives of Generation Z. On the other hand, many young people often need to learn what they want and where they want to go. On the other hand, many young people often need to understand what they are good at and where they want to go, and thus naturally, always stand out unpleasantly in self-organised teams because they need to do their jobs better.

As a manager, one should be equipped with relatively high social skills, be able to listen well and take the needs of the employees seriously. It is crucial to find joint solutions that give Generation Z employees the feeling that they are being taken seriously so that they can perform to their full potential and benefit the company in the long term. 

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