Admittedly, you have to approach Gen Z differently to attract them as employees. And yes, more younger men work part-time than older men – though often 80 or 90%. But that is not yet proof that there are different generations with different values on work ethics or attitudes to work. On the contrary, it is highly debatable whether the date of birth alone differentiates enough to speak of generations. I can become a mother at the age of 18 or at the age of 42, and the challenges will be similar, although I will supposedly belong to a different generation. I was born in 1964, so am I just a baby boomer or perhaps closer to Generation X in terms of mindset?

Intragenerational variance is large

There is hardly any empirical evidence that there is such a thing as the four generations – especially invoked in the consulting literature – that are supposedly currently working in companies. If we hold on to this idea, we cement new stereotypes and possibly negatively influence team performance. The variance within the so-called generations is greater than the averages stereotypically attributed to them. Gen Z, about which so much is written, is a small urban and perhaps particularly visible group. They are neither lazy nor hyper-technophile but have a large variance within their group. The same applies to the other generations.

It is true, however, that needs change during life. There are phases in life when I may prefer to work part-time – for example, because I am doing further education, have caring responsibilities or want to change from a demanding management role to an expert role. There are life events that make me reflect on the purpose for which I want to use my working time. The much-cited meaning in work is not only sought by some members of Gen Z, but also by women returning to work and many towards the end of their working lives.

Creating a culture that everyone belongs to

But what all employees, regardless of age, need is good leadership. I call it inclusive leadership. It creates a culture where everyone feels like they belong. If I am perceived, accepted and listened to as a person with my own needs in a team and feel that I belong to the organisation, I am likely to be more engaged than if I am treated as a number, an outsider or a token. If I am valued, if there is a positive culture of making mistakes and if learning is supported within the team, then I will perform better than if scapegoats are pilloried. If derogatory behavior is addressed by leaders, if they act as role models and let everyone have their say in meetings, I will perform better than if inappropriate or sexist behavior is dismissed with a joke. If there is psychological safety, if talent has no age, if I am encouraged and given credit for something and if promotion processes are transparent, then I will engage more than if stereotypes obscure the view of employees’ potential.

Successful through Diversity & Inclusion
If you are interested in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and want to learn more about topics such as inclusive leadership and culture, then you should join the online seminar “Successful through Diversity & Inclusion”. Deepen your understanding and become an advocate for positive change in your organisation.

About the author(s)

Portrait Gudrun Sander 246

Prof. Dr. Gudrun Sander Director Competence Centre for Diversity and Inclusion

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