Culture & behavior

Generation Z: New employees, new challenges and new opportunities

Generation Z is society's first right digital natives, as most of them cannot remember the time before the internet, computers and mobile phones at all. This gives them a unique understanding of digital tools as well as an ability to adapt quickly. They are worth their weight in gold for companies, if we know how to integrate them.

Culture & behavior

In LederInsigt's theme Generation management Soulaima Gourani describes many of the issues that arise when we have many generations together on the labor market at the same time, and she offers good tips on how you can prepare your company by integrating the young generations. In this article we take a closer look at these young generations, because it does not really matter whether we are dealing with Generation Y or Generation Z.


The generations in the labor market:

  • Baby boomers are the large cohorts after the Second World War. Many of them are now around retirement age
  • Generation X were young at the start of the 1990s and are often described as a generation without direction and goals. They are now in their mid-thirties to mid-fifties, and many are managers.
  • Generation Y is the zapper generation and was the center of the family's focus. They are from about 1980 to the mid-nineties and are today between their mid-twenties and mid-thirties.
  • Generation Z were born in the mid-nineties and are typically teenagers or at most in their mid-twenties

Generation Z is barely older than teenagers right now, but soon they will hit the job market with a bang, as Generation Y already did. But for them, the world as a teenager is completely different than it was for Generation Y ten years ago. Just think how fast everything is moving - especially technologically. Generation Y can remember the terrorist attacks on September 11 and the financial crisis, the Z's cannot. Their world is different despite the few years of age difference.


A typical Z's

Center for Future Research, explore, describes the Zs as a generation focused on success and self-realization. They are identity projects in competition with themselves and each other.


Generation Z has grown up in a richer society than previous generations and therefore makes greater demands on themselves, their workplace and society. Growing up in the nineties was safe and full of optimism, and there was therefore plenty of opportunity for families to use their energy to create the best conditions for the children.


They are used to support, dialogue and co-determination, which has given rise to phenomena such as "trophy children" and "curling children". They are highly educated and easy to learn.


Many from this generation have been watching YouTube videos in English or playing online games with their English-speaking peers ever since they were little. Often before they even had English at school. Geography and language are therefore not a limit for the Zs, and they are quick to learn on their own.


They have money and are already experienced consumers who are far more difficult to cheat than previous generations have been. In this connection, their communication habits mean that good and bad experiences – e.g. with a service or a company – immediately spread in their large network. This sharing of experiences must also be remembered when hiring a Z'er.


Generation Z in the company

They are a generation that is used to having influence with parents and in the home. Their schooling has been characterized by a focus on talent and the development of the individual rather than the collective. They therefore demand that an employer offers constant feedback and the opportunity to advance in the workplace. That doesn't mean they want to be the center of attention, but they want attention.


They have been brought up to look at themselves and their own possibilities and at the same time consider diversity as something positive and constructive. Generation Z makes high demands on their workplace, which must do more to adapt to the Zs than the other way around. They are no more loyal than they can easily find a competitor who is more willing to adapt than you are. And there are many who want to.


Friends and networks are crucial in this connection, and often the network is very large. Generation Z spends a lot of energy on maintaining (and expanding) it and can therefore in a short time activate and mobilize a large contact surface, which can be an enormous resource for a workplace.

Generation Z in a nutshell: 

  • Always a smartphone with/in hand. If the phone has to stay at home or in the drawer at your workplace, then the young employee will find another job.
  • No boundary between "ordinary" and digital life.
  • Behavior and achievements require attention and recognition from others. Especially on social media and at school.
  • I am used to and expect all responses to fall at lightning speed. Also from the boss.
  • Too many rules is a challenge.
  • Great focus on one's own identity - also at the workplace.


How to Lead a Zer

Cultural sociologist and trend advisor, Emilia Van Hauen, emphasizes i this article, that Generation Z has no ambition to be in the same workplace for the rest of their lives. Life must always be dynamic, and more and more generation Z employment will be as free agents, consultants or project employment. Typically, as a leader for this generation, you can expect the following:


  1. The Zs are not passive, but very much co-creators – especially digitally. They are familiar with making videos, taking pictures, editing or even developing some digital solution themselves. Reality coexists with the smartphone, computer, tablet, etc., without reality necessarily having the greatest importance.
  2. The mobile phone is as indispensable as clothes on the body. The possibility of contact and interaction must be constant.
  3. The Z's are used to everything being available anywhere and anytime. Sales, information and communication must therefore be found on the mobile, if Generation Z is not to be disengaged.
  4. They constantly absorb information, but also quickly lose interest.
  5. They multitask all the time and often with the mobile phone in one hand. In the workplace, this means that inspiration is gathered from everywhere, all the time. So even if they sitting on social media during working hours does not mean that they are not working.
  6. Generation Z can find potential, tasks, customers and ideas everywhere.
  7. The Z's do not agree with hierarchies in the same way as previous generations, and the role of leader will therefore assume a form that is more inspirational than commanding.
  8. Z's are very self-directed and need feedback and opportunities more than direction. They are driven by desire, interest and trust.
  9. They are intense, but also fleeting, so the workplace has to let desire, interest and initiative be a foundation for the employees. Trust and purpose become the glue that binds these employees together for their tasks. And as a leader, you are only something in the eyes of the Zs if you contribute to this kind of community.


Van Hauen therefore advises managers to:

  • To make the organization fluid. Focus on desire, interest, initiative and inclusion. It must be trust rather than systems and rules that hold the organization together.
  • Remembering that Z's are self-aware, self-sufficient, innovative and goal-oriented. They are pragmatic, but idealistic enough to want to make a difference. The company's "good history" is therefore important for generations.
  • Remembering that for Zers, who you are is more important than what you are. It is about contributing with added value. Both in terms of what they can produce and what experiences they can convey.
  • To take advantage of the fact that Zers can drive innovation and have entrepreneurship in their blood, not least because they can see entrepreneurs and ideas becoming successful on social media every day.
  • To give the Z's freedom and space to help shape the organisation's content, vision and mission. Even the product. They are used to responsibility and thrive on initiative and creativity.
  • To create a safe environment with feedback and recognition. Let competition happen at the group level and don't measure their individual performance.



Also read about Soulaima Gouraini's theme Generation management.

Watch our videos where Solaima Gourani talks about trends for Generation Y and Z and how to manage multiple generations in the same company.

Generational management (1/6) – As a manager, how do you handle five generations at once?

Also watch our videos with Søren Krogh Nielsen, where he shows how new technology makes it easier and more efficient to collaborate with several generations together and across distances.

New ways of Working (1/3) – Background for New Ways of Working – 4 generations on the labor market

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