New Work and Gen Z

Positive cool-headedness

For Gen Z, New Work stands for a different attitude to work. Gen Z asks questions that other generations before them did not ask. For example: What does my work do for me? We all benefit from this.


For the boomer generation it was clear: work is for earning money to build wealth with. Gen Z is taking a different approach. The first thing they ask is what the purpose of work is. Now, the term purpose can be named the unword of the year – maybe even the decade – because it is so often used in the business world at the moment. But the idea behind it is important: What purpose does work fulfill?
Many recruiters have already experienced that graduates ask for sabbaticals in the first interview. At first this shocked me: How can someone who has not yet contributed make direct demands? When I looked deeper into the expectations of Gen Z, I came to a different understanding. Many representatives of this generation have a legitimate demand to use their labor in a meaningful way. It is the task of companies to enable them to do just that.

With self-confidence and vehemence

Companies are therefore challenged to rethink their business models. We need to ask ourselves what contribution we are making to the economy (we are skilled at this), but also to the ecology and to our society. And once we have answered these questions, we need to explain to our employees from each generation what contribution they make in their daily work in these three dimensions.
The self-confidence and vehemence with which Gen Z stands up for both their individual and societal needs is impressive. It has thus helped us all to act in a more self-determined way with regard to place of work and working hours. Or who could have imagined five years ago sitting by the sea in Spain doing their job? Or spending the lunch break together with the children and then sitting down at the desk again?
Of course, Corona and digitalisation have also contributed to this. But I am convinced that the cool-headedness with which Gen Z questions the status quo has also had a positive influence on us. In the best case, we too will get to the bottom of the question of meaning.

How Gen Z can make companies fit for the future

How can we use this new impetus in the labor market to make companies resilient and fit for the future? First of all, despite the great media focus on Gen Z, it must be clear that people cannot, of course, be categorized only by belonging to a generation. Every person is more than their birth cohort. The concept of New Work is and remains flexible. Everyone understands it differently – regardless of generation. For us human resources managers, it is about creating a working environment in which as many people as possible can make a productive contribution to themselves, the economy, the ecology and society – with a job that fulfills them and that they enjoy.

Companies can make an important contribution to bringing generations into dialogue with each other. For all their admiration for the courage and determination with which Gen Z represents their interests and all of ours, they should also understand what drove the generations before them: For them, the primary goal of work was to earn money. It is with this view of work that generations of people have made prosperity, entrepreneurship and progress in our country possible. This is not something to be denied or even despised.

The task now is to establish a culture of open dialogue. For this, everyone must listen to everyone and ask questions. When companies talk to their employees and employees talk to each other, understanding and trust develop. This strengthens corporate culture and employee loyalty, favors the development of new structures – and ideally creates a common understanding of New Work.

Originally published in absatzwirtschaft.

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