At the panel discussion hosted by consultant and journalist Thorsten Giersch at New Work Experience in June 2022, the new generation of employees had their say. With influencer Fabian Grischkat and young politician and former Secretary General of the Federal Student Conference, Dario Schramm, two of their best-known representatives exchanged views on what moves younger generations, what they demand from work and what bothers Generation Z about the status quo.
The new sensitivity of Generation Z
According to Grischkat and Schramm, young people approach companies with a new sensitivity to morality, justice and participation. If the corporate culture contradicts their set of values and if employers do not act authentically – think of greenwashing and pseudo-diversity campaigns – the inhibition threshold to change job is significantly lower for Generation Z than for older generations. For Grischkat, however, quitting a job is not a sign of a lack of loyalty. Rather, if the current working environment does not fit one’s own set of values, it is better to change positions sooner than working in wrong jobs for years. Schramm also considers job changes to be fundamentally positive: “What kind of company can still talk about progress if it has an employee in a management position who hasn’t changed in 30 years? And in a fast-moving world, isn’t it also advantageous for companies if employees gain more skills and train their strengths elsewhere?”
A departure from traditional patterns
Younger workers’ need for autonomy, personal development, purpose and a work-life balance requires a departure from traditional patterns. “The young generation has an inquisitive mind and wants to learn. They want to act out and have freedom,” says Fabian Grischkat. In his opinion, young professionals should be given more opportunities to take time off for training and development without having to completely give up pay and financial security. “We have to give Generation Z more freedom and break up tight structures,” says Dario Schramm as well. Freedom is indispensable to attract young people with new skills to companies in a changing, more digital working world.
The feeling of replaceability and insecurity has increased
Though Generation Z places more value on freedom for training and personal development than on earning a lot of money, the Corona pandemic has also significantly increased the need for security and stability. Grischkat explained that working from home has created a feeling of replaceability among young people. They therefore wanted to go back to the office more often to prove themselves and meet colleagues. The young generation is well aware that performance and career advancement are mutually dependent. This statement contradicts relevant studies – Thorsten Giersch quoted a study by DAK as a representative – according to which two-thirds of employers are of the opinion that Generation Z lacks motivation, willingness to perform and the ability to work under pressure, but that they express unrealistic career aspirations and place unrealistic demands on employers. What young generations do not really like is that companies often lack understanding for them, that superiors are reluctant to hand over responsibility and that an emphasis on work-life balance is often equated with less performance.
Generation Z desires openness and an active feedback culture
For a successful interplay between generations, for Grischkat and Schramm it needs more openness and an active feedback culture. And managers who communicate with young people at eye level and act as a kind of coach to show them how individual talent can be strengthened. A corporate culture that also allows errors as well as clear and appreciative communication are just as important to young employees as the opportunity for personal development, from taking on responsibility to flexible career planning. If schools then prepare young people even better for the demands of the job market in the future, important prerequisites have been created.