Generation Z, shapers of the future of work-life

Generation Z – young people born between 1995 and 2005 – is a complex generation. They are very capable in gathering knowledge intelligently and are technically more equipped than any previous generation. However, they are fronting an adult life where man and machine need to collaborate side by side on a whole new level, where development goes so quickly that it might feel distressing. Generation Z gazes at their future work- life with fear and wonder. They put high demands on both the employer – and themselves – and are worried about not being able to do good enough. But they also have ambitions to shape a new world, with guiding ideals both in the small world and in the big world.

Kairos Future has already since it´s foundation in 1993 been interested in new generations of young people, since their values, and in some extent, habits, have coined the future they are creating. In January 2020 it was time to put another layer of insights on Generation Z to previous research, and this time focus was placed on their view on work-life habits. 500 young people were asked about their view regarding the future of work, culture in organizations and their thoughts on the future competences that will be needed at work. 

From the answers it is possible to draw some clear conclusions about the priorities and values of Generation Z. Thanks to a continuous information flow, they are fed with information about all the challenges facing the world and realize that there are many questions about the future that need to be addressed. Will they have jobs in the footsteps of the automation in industry? Will they have anywhere to live? Can they afford to build that dream that they see others display in social media? Will they have somebody to share their life with? In other words – insecurity – is the keyword, in a world which is changing very rapidly both at a macro- and microlevel. 

Generation Z is living in a world which has converted into an “operationalized” blurred work-life, including working-hours, salary, expected results, and accountability. Even the school system has followed the same logic with grades as a continuous whip, resulting in an increasing amount of young people feeling anxiety, which has tripled amongst them since 2000. In their own words, they explain that it is all about higher demands, higher pressure at school, and fear of failure and not doing good enough. In their work-life, they see more and more of the ”gig economy” both in the gig companies and sometimes from the view presented to them, where work is all about clocking an uncertain number of working hours within unpredictable time-frames. 

The results from our research, seem to present a higher demand from Generation Z regarding humanity and safety at their future workplace – both in traditional issues such as employment security and fixed working hours. But interestingly and particularly, there is a high demand for an emotionally friendly workplace. Young people in general think that the gig economy will grow since attractive jobs will become less available. Apart from high employment security, Generation Z also raises high demands for being seen and listened to, and expect the employer to be caring, assuring of a nice working climate, and give them appreciation for their work and effort. They don´t want to be a figure in a database. They also request clear and meaningful goals in their wish list. When the employer’s own goals are dominated by an automation logic, the attractive employer on the other hand will be the humane, meaningful and caring, and a person whom only wants the best for his/her employees.  

With that said, it does not imply that the usual requests for good wages and career planning are gone. They are as important as they always have been. But the young of course, prioritize differently, and there is a good reason to put freedom and rewards on an equal level. Approximately one third of young people prioritize this higher, compared to Swedish people in general - and the career path is about being able to change jobs, earn money and shape their own future. A fifth of them, however, want to be free in order to trigger their own meaningful questions and prioritize engagement as well as freedom. Moreover, there is a big group who only want a safe employment to go to in order to earn a stable level of money. As a whole, we can see that Generation Z is an intricate and complex generation, with different purposes in their work-life, depending on who they are as a person. 

Leadership is important in order to engage with Generation Zs, and therefore they can be seen as somewhat threatening and be perceived as difficult. However, only one fifth of them dare to claim that they want to become leaders. To become a leader is much less attractive than to become a specialist amongst Gen Zs. The explanation to this, is that they probably see leadership as something more demanding and something that requests heavier engagements compared to what previous generations consider it to be. And this is so, particularly since they themselves, so highly respect good leaders – and look down at lousy and irresponsible ones. Yet they are quite unsure about what good leadership and inspiration really is. However, they consider their own strengths, as stated by themselves, to be very good at problem solving and collaboration, rather than to leadership. So, the organization which succeeds to attract young people and give them the self-confidence they need to lead others in their own generation, has probably everything to win in the long run.

Insights from Generation Z about the view of their future work- life from January 2020 is a new layer to already existing material about Generation Z. With our research material you can for example:

Insights from Generation Z about the view of their future work-life from January 2020, is a new layer to already existing material about Generation Z. With our research material you can for example:

  • Set up a new strategy for Employer Branding to attract and engage different segments (”tribes”) of Generation Z 

  • Set up directions for generational changes 

  • Create new market strategies towards Generation Z 

  • Get inspired by our conferences or workshops 

Do you want to know more about how you best can attract, engage and retain Generation Z? Contact Heléne Olsson.

By Heléne Olsson