Generation Z

What awaits the labor market?

Current studies show that with the so-called Generation Z, young people are currently entering the labor market who have completely different values and expectations than their predecessors. As a result, they pose completely new challenges for the HR sector − but also new opportunities and possibilities.

This article was provided by the agency “Junges Herz”. And was first published in German.

The term Generation X was coined by Robert Capa in the early 1950s. The US photographer used it in a photo ­reportage. The term caught on and is used as a buzzword today. And because it fitted so well, Generation X was followed by Generation Y and now − logically − Gen Z. These previous generations also include the so-called baby boomers. The generational terms are not always used in exactly the same way. However, the working world experts generally classifies them as follows:

  • Baby Boomers: born between 1943 and 1964
  • Generation X: born between 1965 and 1978
  • Generation Y (also called millennials): born between 1979 and 1998
  • Generation Z: born from 1999 onwards (also from 1995 onwards, depending on the author)

Employers have found that Generations X and Y differ greatly in their behavior and values. Accordingly, the acquisition of applicants, employee motivation and the long-term retention of employees have been subject to change over the last twenty years. While Generation X was considered ambitious and materialistic, but also skeptical and reserved, Generation Y has changed a lot. With an affinity for technology, self-centered and often less connected to their employer, but also more positive, team-oriented and idealistic, Generation Y turned the job market upside down.

Now Generation Z is gearing up for working life. And in turn is creating change − and new opportunities. Several researcher believe that the connection between professional and private life is becoming increasingly important for this generation.

Digital natives 2.0 

Generation Z brings completely different prerequisites to the world of work. From an early age, these young people are used to processing a flood of digital information and using it to their advantage. While some members of Gen Y have already been described as “digital natives”, this applies to an even greater extent to Generation Z. They are growing up in the middle of a digital world. They are part of a 24-hour networked online community – and they like to be. Virtual contacts are often maintained on an equal footing with personal contacts.

There is no longer a clear distinction between the real and virtual worlds. The two worlds are merging into one, with social networks, WhatsApp, blogs and forums being seamlessly integrated into daily life and accessible at all times via smartphone. Cell phones and notebooks, Facebook and Skype are part of life. Content is shared online and information is obtained from the internet. Digital technology is perceived as a natural extension of oneself and one’s own possibilities.

Of course, not every young person born from the end of the 1990s onwards is the same. But one thing is certainly true: Generation Z has grown up with the possibilities of a digitally networked world. Online discussion, exchange and interaction are part of everyday life. There is more comparison, more questioning than in previous generations.

Gen Z’s expectations of everyday working life 

Generation Z is characterized by different expectations, a different world view and different value patterns. They grew up in a context like no generation before. Children were at the center of attention, were included in decisions, motivated and praised. Self-confidence was promoted. These expectations are also reflected in youth marketing. Generation Z wants to be independent.

They approach their working life with curiosity and openness, making use of all the technical possibilities, and strive for an optimal mix of working life and leisure time. At the same time, however, employers are losing importance, which – thanks to Darwiportunism – is partly their own fault. This is not to say that the new generation is less motivated. They just need to be motivated differently.

Surveys show this: It is not the level of salary and the status associated with the job that are important to Generation Z. Instead, the focus is on self-realization, enjoying the job, a good working atmosphere and a suitable working environment. Recrutainment also follows this approach. Applicants are asked in advance about their interests, skills and, in some cases, vision and loyalty.

Challenge: new HR strategies required 

When filling new vacancies, the proportion of applicants is increasingly shifting towards Generation Z. It is therefore particularly important to adapt strategies for the allocation of apprenticeships, employer branding, school marketing and university marketing. Generation Y was already said to lack an emotional connection to the company. This trend is continuing.

This makes it all the more important to create motivation in other ways: For example, through interesting projects, changing challenges, good development opportunities and results-oriented leadership.

For Generation Y, it was only recognized late that a rethink in management was necessary. Many things have only gradually become established: Flexible working hours, consideration for work-life balance and performance-oriented remuneration strengthen employee motivation and loyalty. For Generation Z, companies must continue to rethink and adapt to the “digital natives”. Although still a long way off, this will also apply to managers and career promises in the coming years.

Measures for addressing Generation Z

More and more HR employees and recruiters are looking at ways to address Gen Z. Clever HR colleagues are trying out many exciting approaches. Whether it is applying via WhatsApp, influencer marketing, selecting a suitable manager via time-delayed video interviews, digital events at secondary school or recruitment campaigns via Snapchat. The possibilities are seemingly endless these days. However, it is important to understand that not all measures really make sense.

For example, there are many great-looking projects that have been designed without taking the target group’s world into account. HR staff often try to mix new technologies with familiar selection processes.

However, it is more effective to establish new processes and then find suitable measures. This avoids expensive experiments that look good on social networks but are not reflected in qualitative applicant numbers. According to this principle, candidates who are actually interested in the company and the job are invited to interviews.

Values of Generation Z

Future generations will no longer grow up in the prosperity that prevailed 20 – 30 years ago. Gen Z has virtually symbolized this motto and must now provide its own answers or create its own values. Young people are usually impulsive, adventurous and have an urgent need for development.

Generation Z is no different here. Even though the generations are changing, some of the values of the previous generations have remained unchanged. However, the trend clearly shows that certain values are becoming increasingly prevalent. These include:

  • Desire for free development and yet open-ended contracts
  • Major concerns about their own future
  • Less and less identification with well-known managers such as Martin Winterkorn, Tim Cook or Bill Gates.
  • Desire for flexibility and changeability in the world of work
  • Buzzwords such as work-life balance or family friendliness are being heard less and less, as many employers usually only promise them but do not keep them
  • Management responsibility is becoming increasingly unattractive. Leisure time plays a much greater role
  • The employer brand is becoming more and more important, as learned behavior (ratings on the internet, tests, comparisons, rankings) is becoming increasingly important
  • Digitalization is an essential part of everyday working life. Social media ban in training? A no-go!
  • Labor market researchers are increasingly questioning the concept of fixed job assignments. Working from home and office sharing are not fashion trends.

Companies are still waiting for young people to develop according to predetermined patterns and work profiles. That time has already been over for more than ten years. Modern HR strategies should take this into account.

Utilizing potential 

Generation Z has always taken digital networking for granted. Since their childhood, answers to all their questions have been just a mouse click away. Generation Z knows exactly what opportunities are open to them. Because all the information they need can be found online in a flash. And this is precisely where both the challenge and the immense potential of the next generation of employees lie. In future, companies will not only have to convey these values in a recruiting video, but also live them in real life.

For representatives of Generation X, it is unthinkable and seems presumptuous for young people to ask for early closing time, good development opportunities and flexible consideration of their private lives when applying for an apprenticeship. But that is Generation Z: they know their opportunities, they know their value and they confidently demand the right conditions and an exciting field of work.

Now is the right time to rethink your marketing strategy when it comes to job and apprenticeship placements.

The right strategy for acquiring Generation Z employees creates a valuable competitive advantage. Companies that adapt their HR work, recruitment and management patterns individually to the different generations will benefit in the long term.

Agency “Junges Herz” 

The agency “Junges Herz” (young heart) is dedicated to employer branding projects. As neutral observers, they analyze given companies: What makes employers stand out? Where can the agency provide expertise as support and what is already working well? They provide the best possible and intensive advice on creating a new employer image. Over the years, the agency has worked with numerous satisfied clients – from the medium-sized company next door to the global players. “We learn with every project, because every project is unique” is their motto.

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