Management & Organization

Generation Z: New coworkers, new challenges and new opportunities


Generation Z is society’s first actual digital natives, since most of them can’t even remember a time before the internet, computers and mobile phones. This gives them a unique understanding of digital tools along with the ability to quickly adapt. They are a potential goldmine for companies if we know how to integrate them.


In LederIndsigt’s theme How to manage people from different generations, Soulaima Gourani describes some of the issues that occur when we have many generations employed at the same time, and she offers advice on how to improve our companies by integrating the young generations.


In this article, we will look closely on those young generations, because there actually is a difference between dealing with Generation Y and dealing with Generation Z.


Generations in our companies:

  • Baby boomers are the huge generations following World War 2 and many near their time of retirement now.
  • Generation X were young in the beginning of the 90’s and are often described as a generation without direction or goals. They are in their mid-thirties to fifties and many are leaders.
  • Generation Y was the center of their families’ attention. They’re from around 1980 to the mid-90’s and are currently in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties.
  • Generation Z are born in the middle of the 90’s and are typically teenagers or in their early twenties tyverne

Generation Z is hardly more than teenagers right now, but they will soon enter the labor market with an impact. Just like Generation Y. But the world for a teenager is quite different now than it was for Generation Y 10 years ago. Look at how fast everything is moving – especially in terms of technology. Generation Y can remember the attacks on 9/11 and the global financial crisis, the “Z’s” can’t. Their world is different despite being just a few years apart.


A typical Z

Danish center for future research, fremforsk, describes the Z’s as a generation focused on success and self-realization. They are identity projects competing with themselves and each other.


Generation Z has grown up in a society that is wealthier than those of previous generations, hence they demand more from themselves, their place of work and society. Growing up in the 90’s has been relatively safe and optimistic, which is why families have had every opportunity to focus on creating the best terms for their children.


They are accustomed to support, dialogue and influence. They are well-educated and quick to learn.


This generation is full of people who has seen international YouTube videos, or played online videogames with children from foreign countries, from they were very young. Geography and language is not a boundary for the Z’s and they are quick at learning something on their own.


They have money and are experienced consumers who are far more difficult to cheat than the previous young generations where. Their communicational behavior ensures that both pleasant and bad experiences – for instance with a service or a company – are immediately shared with their large network. And this mechanism of sharing their experience is in fact something you have to be aware of when hiring a Z.  


Generation Z in our companies

They are a generation who is used to having influence with their parents and at home. Their time in school has been carved by a focus on talent and individual development on behalf of the group. As such, they expect that their employer offers constant feedback and the opportunity of advancement. This doesn’t mean that they have to be the center of attention, but attention is a necessity.


They are raised to look at themselves and their possibilities and at the same time see difference as something positive and constructive.Generation Z demand much from their workplace, which has to do more to adapt the Z’s than the other way around. They are not afraid to turn to our competitors instead who are more willing to adapt than we are.


Friends and network is important and their network is often very big. Generation Z spends a lot of energy maintaining (and expanding) this, and as such they can activate and mobilize a huge range of contacts in little time, which can be a tremendous resource for a company.


Generation Z in short: 

  • Always a smartphone close by/in the hand. If the phone has to stay at home or in their pocket in your company, then the Z employee will find another job.
  • No boundary between "ordinary" and digital life.
  • Behavior and accomplishment demand attention and recognition from other people. Especially on social media and in school .
  • They are used to and expect that response is quick. Also from the boss.
  • Too many rules are a challenge.
  • Lots of focus on identity – also on the job.

How to lead a Z

Cultural sociologist and trend advisor, Emilia Van Hauen, emphasizes in this article (in Danish) that Generation Z has no ambition of remaining at the same workplace for the rest of their lives. Life must always be dynamic, and more and more Generation Z jobs will be as free agents, consultants or on a project basis. As leaders, we typically see the following apply for this generation:


  1. The Z’s are not passive but very co-creating – especially digitally. They are confident in making videos, taking pictures, editing and even develop some kind of digital solution themselves. Reality coexists with smartphones, computers, tablets etc. without necessarily allowing reality to be most significant.
  2. The mobile phone is just as important as wearing clothes. The possibility of contact and interaction must be present all the time.
  3. The Z’s are accustomed to everything being accessible everywhere and all the time. Sales, information and communication must be available on the phone in order to retain Generation Z.
  4. They constantly suck in information, but they also lose interest fast.
  5. They always multitask and often with their phone in hand. At their workplace, this means that inspiration is gathered from all over, all the time. So, even if they are on social media during work hours this doesn’t mean that they are not working.
  6. Generation Z can find potential, assignments, customers and ideas everywhere.
  7. The Z’s are not familiar with hierarchies the same way as previous generations. Therefore, the leader role will have to be more inspiring than managing.
  8. The Z’s are very self-managing and need feedback and opportunities rather than management. They are driven by motivation, interest and trust.
  9. They are intense but also volatile, so the workplace must allow motivation, interest and initiative to be the foundation for employees. Trust and purpose become the glue that ties those employees together around their assignments. And as the leader, you are merely someone in the eyes of the Z’s if you contribute to this kind of community.


As such, Van Hauen advises leaders to:

  • Make the organization flowing. Focus on motivation, initiative and inclusion. Is must be trust instead of systems and rules that tie the organization together.
  • Remember that Z’s are self-aware, self-supplying, innovational and goal oriented. They are pragmatic but still idealistic enough to want to make a difference. Thus the company’s “good story” is important to this generation.
  • Remember that to the Z’s, who you are is more important than what you are. It’s about contributing with more value. Both in terms of production and what kind of experience they can communicate.
  • Exploit that Z’s can drive innovation and that they have entrepreneurship in their blood, especially because they are able to see entrepreneurs and ideas become successful every day on social media.
  • To give Z’s freedom and room to contribute to the shape of the company’s content, vision and mission. Even the product. They are familiar with taking responsibility and thrive on initiative and creativity.
  • To create a safe place with feedback and recognition. Let competition happen within groups and don’t measure their individual achievements.



Also read Soulaima Gourainis theme on How to manage people from different generations

See our videos where Solaima Gourani speaks about tendencies of Generation Y and Z and how we can handle multiple generations in the same company.

Generation management (1/6) – As a leader, how do you handle five generations at the same time

Also see our videos of Søren Krogh Nielsen where he demonstrates how new technology can make it easier and more efficient to cooperate between generations and across distances.

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