Recently, I have often heard the admittedly provocative statement that the younger generation is no longer willing to work “at full capacity” and that managers have difficulty motivating these employees to work more. The focus is often on Generation Z, or Generation Alpha, entering the labour market for the first time.
What does “full power” mean?
Today, managers often expect employees to be willing to work overtime, “step in” when there is a fire and even sacrifice weekends for a project’s success.
Usually, these managers started their careers this way and stood out because of their willingness to work harder. In most cases, extra performance has paid off in the form of higher salaries or opportunities for promotion within the company.
Many younger generation representatives – in the meantime, it is no longer “only” Generation Z, but also the successor generation Alpha – have a different view. For them, full performance means delivering full performance in the agreed time without at the same time being willing to work overtime or extra hours. The willingness to perform and make more time available than agreed is strictly separated.
This dilemma leads to increasingly clear tensions in many companies between the “old” who demand full performance and the “young” who give a full performance, albeit with different frames of reference.
Can the problem be solved?
We believe so, but not through ever more sophisticated staff retention measures or salary packages designed to make it palatable for the new generations to work more than they agreed to according to their employment contracts.
It usually doesn’t work to wave promotion opportunities either, as these are often linked to “all-in” contracts, where there is an expectation to perform a certain overtime quota.
Being a manager is often no longer attractive today because this role in companies usually entails the unpleasant consequence of being available at all times.
We see two levers to get out of the dilemma and continue to be successful as a company:
Lever 1 – Knowing the different frames of reference and reflecting on one’s attitude
The young generation is not per se unwilling to perform. At the same time, they attach just as much importance to life outside the company and need time and attention for it.
This corresponds to a different way of life than many managers and key workers over forty live today. This is okay; it simply reflects a different attitude to the world of work.
Lever 2 – Organisational development
Many organisations today live well by having a hard core of critical people to fall back on, especially in difficult situations. They burn for the company, solve every problem and get everything on the road to satisfy the customers.
One’s interests are often put on the back burner for a long time, so life outside the company could be more extensive. The salary is usually correct, so you can “savour” the remaining free time and thus regain energy for the next spurt.
If an organisation relies too much on these top performers, it will have the problem in the medium term that the next generations will function “differently”. It will not feel comfortable in companies designed for competition and “sprints”.
However, since the battle for talent is increasingly being decided by the talents and no longer by the companies – in other words, the young talents can often choose the companies today – it is becoming critical for organisations that stick to the “old” recipe that has been successful for many years.
The young generation demands working environments with more teamwork instead of lone warriors, with collaborative problem-solving processes where everyone contributes their competencies instead of cultivating knowledge in one place, with flat hierarchies, distributed leadership etc.
A lot of development is still needed here to make organisations resilient, independent of individual key resources, and equipped with smart systems that make distributed leadership genuinely liveable.
At the moment, almost all companies are looking for employees; the various platforms are full of job ads. The group currently entering the labour market is Generation Z and significantly smaller than the group due to retirement.
Generation Z is the first generation to be described as digital natives and ticks differently than previous generations.
On the one hand, an open discussion of the needs of both sides and an offensive organisational development that makes organisations more resilient will determine the success or failure of companies in the coming years. Get ready for it!