How to: Generation Z for Leaders

Generation Z, Generation Greta or Post Millennials born in or after 1997 are gradually entering the labour market. What does that mean for companies, for employers, for supervisors? How does this generation think? Matthias Mölleney, expert for HR management and leadership, is seminar leader of the Beyond Leadership programme at the Entrepreneurship School of the Executive School of the University of St.Gallen and prepares leaders for the new generation.

Generation Z is gradually entering the labour market. How does the new generation differ from its predecessors?

Gen Z is indeed an interesting generation – it can’t quite be categorised yet. Generation X focuses strongly on career, performance, wealth and career advancement. Whereas the next generation, Generation Y, focuses on self-realisation and a sense of purpose. The new generation seems to be more of a performance type again. They concentrate on performance, which, however, must be meaningful. Financial goals are more in the spotlight again. However, those are always tied to certain framework conditions. Different value attitudes cannot always be identified only by age or generation. For example, I always see differences between people who come from the countryside and those who come from the city. Finding a balance here as a society is a great challenge and a question of social solidarity.

What challenges does this pose for companies?

Employer loyalty is decreasing even more, especially among the younger generation. Job hopping and portfolio work, on the other hand, are on the rise. Companies could therefore be burdened more by high recruitment costs. They should make sure that fluctuation levels off at a healthy level.

What does this mean for managers? How can they increase job loyalty and motivate the new generation to perform at their best?

What used to be true: “Not scolding is already praising” is no longer accepted at all today. The younger employees seem to be more squeamish, place particularly high value on constructive criticism which is, however, accompanied by a declining ability to criticise. They want to hear praise and appreciation even more than previous generations. It is important for managers not to lose contact with their staff. They should find out what the personal values of their employees are, what they identify with. If the leader is able to align his or her leadership behaviour accordingly, it is conducive to the young people’s motivation and willingness to perform.

What expectations do young people have of leadership / their superiors?

In the past, employees were encouraged to put their own values aside and instead adopt the company’s internal values without criticism. That no longer works today. The new generation strongly expects their superiors to show them development opportunities with which they can develop. But they also want to be able to develop with little risk, which means that the boss has to pay attention and take responsibility if things do not go as desired. At the same time, sustainability and diversity are often important concerns for them.

Are we heading in a new direction here? Is it time to completely rethink the understanding of leadership and build a new mindset?

The understanding of leadership certainly needs to be rethought and if necessary adapted. The time of the “lone leader” at the top is over. Those who want to lead successfully in modern, network-like companies must understand leadership as a service to those who are being led. This is a radically different perspective for many managers who have often never experienced it themselves in their hard-won positions of power, but the old structures simply no longer fit. This mindset is not new by the way, but unfortunately it has fallen into oblivion. For example the 1,600-year-old Benedictine Rule already says: “And in all things let him (the abbot) regulate and order everything in such a way that it serves the brothers (and sisters) for salvation and they can do their work without a rightful reason to grumble.” Rules and order will still be needed in the future, but they should serve the people. However, this is not an end in itself, but in the end it is always about performance. Serving people so that they can and want to serve other people. That is what it is all about and that will not change.

Thank you for your interesting answers!

 

Here you can find more information about the Beyond Leadership programme.

 

 

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About the author
Martina Müri Martina is responsible for all public relations activities at the Executive School. Before joining ES-HSG, she worked as a PR consultant and communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of St.Gallen and holds a Master's degree in International Affairs and Governance (M.A. HSG).