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Generation Z – the rise of the Digital Natives

In our last blog article we presented the working settings of the Baby Boomers, Gen X and Y. Another generation, the youngest and called Gen Z, represents the greatest change between generations that the world of work has ever seen [1].

Born as Digital Natives

Born in the 90s, raised in the 2000s, precocious and never really grown up due to the protection of their helicopter parents [1] – the Gen Z. The generation also known as Digital Natives knows more about mobile phones, tablets and Web 2.0 than any other generation [2,3,4] due to its early integration into the virtual system [1]. The Digital Natives seem downright dependent on social media and digital devices: Professional information for the job search can be retrieved at any time from the Internet and posts of private pictures (food, holidays, etc.) spread like wildfire in social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Safe handling creates a high level of self-confidence and leads to a higher individual self-esteem than in previous generations [5].

The smartphone – our constant companion

Who are the Digital Natives?

The Gen Z is characterized by reliability, love of freedom, individualism and high processing speed [6]. Thanks to their technological affinity and their (daily) use of social media, they owe a helpful and highly pronounced eye-hand ear coordination [6]. However, the digital focus has a negative effect on the social competences of the Gen Z: Their relationships seem purely superficial [7,8] and virtual socialisation takes precedence over real contacts [9]. The Gen Z knows a world in which it can, without much effort, get in touch with others and accordingly expects direct feedback [7]. In relation to the world outside the digital world, the Gen Z has a rather short attention span [6].

Does this generation produce the better leaders?

Although the everyday presence of technology limits the possibilities for developing self-awareness and authenticity [10], the question arises as to whether the gamers among the Gen Z may be the better leaders of tomorrow: During their games, they learn leadership skills such as organizing and leading groups and bringing employees of different ages to accomplish tasks together [11]. Learning by trial and error is also part of this [12]. They develop the necessary thinking and innovation processes [13] and thus fulfil the basic requirements of a leadership position.

The Digital Natives – the executives of tomorrow?

Always online … does that have to be?

The constant availability of our smartphone to check and answer professional e-mails at any time and place, even after work, reduces the need to keep the necessary distance from work in order to relax and recover. The risk of psychological stress increases [14]. Conversely, most of us also use our mobile phones at work for private purposes (WhatsApp, Instagram, etc.). Before we know it, we mix professional and private things, our productivity decreases and the frequency of mistakes increases [15].

Combining the pleasant with the useful

Offer your employees something new, something challenging – especially those from the Gen Z. The keyword here is gamification [16]: Combine the (partly) monotonous work on the PC with an integration of a game design in order not only to increase the game instinct and competitive ideas, but also the attention and motivation of this very demanding and quickly bored generation (for example incentive to become employee of the month and receive bonuses; team projects to solve tasks together online etc.) [16].

Combine the pleasant with the useful!

What should executives know about the Gen Z?

Digital technologies shape our individual work behaviour, our creativity and task accomplishment, our employee satisfaction and our well-being [17]. In order for the Gen Z to be able to orient itself towards these values in the work context, they would have to find a job that makes them happy and satisfied and that fits the work-life balance [18]. They prefer flexible working hours [19], an appropriate salary, sufficient further training opportunities [20] and mostly want to achieve their goals on their own [19].

Future Gen Z employers should focus on team-building and socialisation [21], the promotion of interpersonal skills [1] and challenging task assignments [22]. Basic requirements such as personal responsibility, problem solving skills and time management are just as relevant as clear and distinct interpersonal communication [1,20].

Only in this way misunderstandings and discrepancies can be eliminated and an open team culture and general satisfaction can be promoted.

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[2] Jones C., & Shao B. (2011). The net generation and digital natives: implications for higher education. York: Higher Education Academy.

[3] Levickaite, R. (2010). Generations X Y Z: How social networks form the concept of the world without borders (the case of Lithuania), LIMES, 3, 170–183. DOI:10.3846/limes.2010.17

[4] Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1–6.

[5] Kapil Y., & Roy, A. (2014). Critical evaluation of Generation Z at workplaces. International Journal of Social Relevance Concern, 2, 10–14.

[6] Berkup, S. B. (2014). Working with Generations X and Y in Generation Z period: Management of differnet generations in business life. Mediterranean Journal of Social Sciences, 5, 218–229. DOI:10.5901/mjss.2014.v5n19p218

[7] Bencsik, A., & Machova, R. (2016). Knowledge sharing problems from the viewpoint of Intergeneration Management. In D. Vasilenko, & N. Khaziva (Eds.), Proceedings of the 4th International Conference on Management, Leadership and Governance (pp. 42 – 50). UK: Academy Conferences and Publishing International Limited Reading.

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[9] Tari, A. (2010). Az Y és mögötte a Z generáció. Retrieved from

[10] Colbert, A., Yee, N., & George, G. (2016). The digital workforce and the workplace of the future. Academy of Management Journal, 59, 731–739. DOI:10.5465/amj.2016.4003

[11] Yee, N. (2014). The Proteus Paradox: How online games and virtual worlds change us—and how they don’t. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press

[12] Glen R., Suciu C., & Baughn C. (2014). The need for design thinking in business schools. Academy of Management Learning & Education, 13, 653–667.

[13] Brown T,. & Martin R. L. (2015). Design for action: How to use design thinking to make great things actually happen. Harvard Business Review, 56–64. Retrieved from

[14] Sonnentag S., Binnewies C., & Mojza E. J. (2008). “Did you have a nice evening?” A day-level study on recovery experiences, sleep, and affect. Journal of Applied Psychology, 99, 674–684.

[15] Stanko T. L., & Beckman C. M. (2015). Watching you watching me: Boundary control and capturing attention in the context of ubiquitous technology use. Academy of Management Journal, 58, 712–738.

[16] Robson K., Plangger K., Kietzmann J. H., McCarthy I., & Pitt L. (2015). Is it all a game? Understanding the principles of gamification. Business Horizons, 58, 411–420.

[17] van Knippenberg D., Dahlander L., Haas M., & George G. (2015). Information, attention, and decision-making. Academy of Management Journal, 58, 649–657.

[18] Fodor M., & Jaeckel S. (2018). What does it take to have a successful career through the eyes of Generation Z – based on the results of a primary qualitative research. International Journal on Lifelong Education and Leadership, 4, 1–7.

[19] The Forum (2016). Generation Z report: A study into the next generation of workers. Retrieved from

[20] Chan, A. (2015). Cross-Generation communication, collaboration and creativity. Retrieved from

[21] Lazánzyi, K., & Bilan, Y. (2017). Generetion Z on the labour market – do they trust others within their workplace? Polish Journal of Management Studies, 16, 78–93. DOI:10.17512/pjms.2017.16.1.07

[22] Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). The psychology of optimal experience. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

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