European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job

The challenges of 2020 have thrown up big questions about the future of work. Will working from home become the norm? Will a more ethical business world emerge from the coronavirus crisis?

European careers: how Generation Z will transform YOUR job
Photo: Getty Images

This year has also intensified the focus on questions related to existing trends, such as whether flexi-time will become the norm in the future. 

You may be one of hundreds of millions of people globally with an interest in the answers. As the pandemic increases the pressure for businesses to change, a new generation of ‘digital natives’ is ready to take advantage of new opportunities as they finish their studies and begin their careers.

The world is already changing around them – and soon they’ll be further transforming it themselves. Here, The Local, in partnership with the prestigious ESCP Business School, takes a closer look at Generation Z (those born from the mid-1990s until the early 2010s) and the ways in which they could change companies and workplaces. 

Find out how ESCP Business School can prepare you for your future career

Connections that are personal (not only digital!)

The colleagues you once saw every day may have become increasingly distant over the course of this year. It’s easy to feel that digitalisation is taking over everything – and that the next generation will want it that way.

Not according to Karima Belkacemi, careers advisor coach at ESCP Business School, who says the students she works with thrive on “face-to-face connection”. In fact, they’ll expect deeper relationships with their bosses than earlier generations, she says. 

“They want managers who act as mentors,” she says. “That’s what real leadership means to this generation: a person who will always be there for you. They want a personal relationship with a manager who will focus on their development and be willing to help explain things.”

So, your future workplace might see much more personal connection – not less.

Work from anywhere – not only from home

Today’s students had to rapidly adjust to studying online from home due to the pandemic. Many students on ESCP’s Bachelor in Management (BSc) also ended up doing internships lasting three or four months remotely from home.

Leading in a changing world: find out more about ESCP’s Bachelor in Management

While this gave them a chance to let their digital skills shine, they would have preferred to physically attend. “While the school has provided the best possible transition to distance learning, the change has meant students now understand even more clearly the value of working in close collaboration with other people,” says Belkacemi.

She says young people want to shape the world to give them both work-life balance and the option of working from anywhere, not only at home.

Photos: Karima Belkacemi of ESCP/Getty Images

Promoting fun, flexibility and fluidity

Until now, only a lucky few have turned up to work expecting to have fun. But the new generation aren’t too concerned about how things worked in the past.

Growing up as ‘digital natives’, they see entertainment and experimentation as crucial aspects of life – and work.

“Our students really want managers with a gift for making their work fun,” says Belkacemi. “This generation loves to test stuff out and learn about new things.” 

Asked what they most want from their employer, almost half (47 percent) of ‘Gen Z’ respondents said a fun work environment, according to a KPMG report entitled Generation Z Talent. Almost as many (44 percent) wanted flexibility in their work schedule.

The option of working ‘flexitime’ remains a notable benefit today. But amid so many wider social changes, many young people about to enter the workforce may see it as part of the ‘new normal’.

Belkacemi says Generation Z have no fear of trying different paths and companies will have to change how they operate in order to attract talent. Many young people are not only interested in working for companies or leaders who inspire them – but also in having the freedom to create their own inspirational brands. Established companies will have to respond to the challenges posed by this new wave of businesses.

“They aren’t scared of the pace of change and they all want to try entrepreneurship at some point,” says Belkacemi. “The working environment is really important too – if they work for a company, they want big open plan offices like Facebook or Google.”

An end to old school management?

Whatever happens in the business world today, its next generation of employees is watching. One slip up in a company’s social media communications could do serious harm to its image among young people.

“These students care about the values of a company they might apply to,” says Belkacemi. “I think the old style of management is over. This generation won’t want to work with you if they think your company doesn’t care about sustainability or if they don’t like your managerial practices. They’re very open about that.”

The ESCP Bachelor in Management (BSc) focuses on new ways of managing – and is designed to inspire its students with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.

Companies today must adapt and many are also making these values more central to their operations, as well as allowing more remote working via digital tools. Such actions could help a business recruit the best of Generation Z.

“Their attitude is that they want a goal to work towards, before deciding on a job,” continues Belkacemi. “Then they want the freedom to achieve that goal in the best possible way – which means flexibility in when, how and where the work is done.”

Companies that can convince young people they offer all of this will be successful, she predicts. “If someone from Generation Z loves what they do, they’ll work hard and bring you success,” she says. “They want to change the world in five minutes.”

It may take a little longer than that. But their positive impact on workplaces of the future has already begun.

Find out more about ESCP Business School and how its Bachelor in Management seeks to inspire with the principles of ethics, responsibility and sustainability.

For members


The pros and cons of working in Switzerland

Just arrived in Switzerland? Here’s what’s great – and not so great – about being an employee here.

The pros and cons of working in Switzerland
Photo: Rawpixel/Depositphotos
Pro: Salaries are high
There is no federal minimum wage in Switzerland – the Swiss rejected the idea in 2014 – though several cantons have mulled it over, with Neuchâtel likely to be the first canton to introduce it (at 20 francs an hour). 
Nevertheless salaries are generally high. According to figures from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), in 2016 Switzerland’s average wage was $60,124, the third highest of OECD countries after Luxembourg and the US. 
High salaries are necessary, however, given Switzerland is one of the most expensive places in Europe in which to live. 
Con: A significant gender pay gap
If you’re a woman in Switzerland, don’t expect to earn the same as your male colleagues. The country has one of the largest gender pay gaps in Europe, with female employees earning 19.3 percent less than their male colleagues according to recent Eurostat figures.
“I started getting the impression that not everyone is paid the same so I asked around,” one expat teacher in Switzerland told The Local anonymously. “It’s pretty obvious that women are paid less.”
Foreign women get an even worse deal than Swiss women, she adds. “I’m paid less than my [female] Swiss colleague even though we have the same qualifications and experience. It’s frustrating.”
Pro: Decent statutory holiday 
All employees are entitled to at least 20 days (four weeks) holiday a year, on top of public holidays, which makes Switzerland about average for holiday entitlement in Europe, but far better than in the US, where there is no statutory holiday allowance at all (most US employers, however, grant at least ten days).
What’s more, some Swiss companies offer more generous holiday allowance than the statutory, meaning in 2016 the average working person took 5.12 weeks holiday, according to the Swiss statistics office.
In terms of public holidays, only August 1st (Swiss National Day) is observed in all cantons. Other public holidays vary from canton to canton, though most also observe Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday and Ascension Day.
However if a public holiday falls on a weekend then it’s just tough luck – your day off doesn’t carry over to the Monday. 
Pro: A good work/life balance
By law, the maximum a Swiss company can ask you to work is 45 hours a week (apart from some manual jobs which allow 50). According to the Swiss statistics office in 2016 the average was 41 hours and ten minutes (down 13 minutes on the previous year). That’s relatively high compared to other countries, with France on 35 hours (at least, by law) and the UK on 36.5 hours, according to the World Economic Forum
However workers in Switzerland are generally considered to have a good work/life balance. According to the OECD’s Better Life survey the share of employees in Switzerland working very long hours is lower than the OECD average. And Swiss cities are regularly ranked as having among the best quality of life in the world
Writing for Vox about her experience of working in Switzerland, US author Chantal Panozzo hailed the country’s adherence to “sacred” lunchbreaks, the culture of part-time work and the high salaries as things that contributed to a good work-life balance.
“In Switzerland, you don’t arrive to a meeting late, but you also don’t leave for your lunch break a second past noon. If it’s summer, jumping into the lake to swim with the swans is an acceptable way to spend your lunch hour. If you eat a sandwich at your desk, people will scold you.”
Employees must have a minimum of 11 hours off between shifts/days, according to the Swiss economics secretariat (SECO). You can be asked to work an extra 170 hours a year but must be paid 25 percent extra or compensated in lieu. 
Con: Lack of job security
Photo: Goodluz/Depositphotos
Compared with elsewhere in Europe, employers in Switzerland are fairly free to fire employees as they see fit, provided discrimination laws are complied with. So if you find yourself turfed out without what you see as a valid reason, you may have little recourse. 
According to Swiss workers union Unia, “in principle an employer can fire a worker at any time, providing they allow for the correct notice period”.
Firing someone would be considered illegal/abusive if the reason is related to their gender or a personal characteristic (religion, nationality, age, disability, sexual orientation). There is also protection for people absent through illness or injury. 
Pregnant women or those on maternity leave can’t be fired either, however that doesn’t stop some employers firing women the day they get back from maternity leave
It’s a good thing unemployment benefit is so good then… 
Pro: Generous unemployment benefit
If you’ve been working in Switzerland for at least a year and then become unemployed, don’t fret immediately: Switzerland has an extremely generous unemployment benefit system. 
Most people – including foreigners with a valid work permit – are entitled to 80 percent of their last salary for 18 months. Those receiving unemployment benefit are under certain obligations, including frequent meetings with the job centre and pressure to apply for jobs. But you might also be offered certain other benefits, such as language courses paid for by the job centre. 
If you’re self-employed, however, then you can’t claim anything.
Pro: Good employee benefits
If you have a contract with a Switzerland-based company for more than eight hours a week then they must pay your accident insurance. This means that if you have an accident – whether at work, on the ski slopes or elsewhere out and about – the medical costs will be covered if you declare it to your employer and fill in the right forms. 
If your accident means you’re off work for a spell, your employer must also pay you 80 percent of your wages during your sick leave. The length of time that lasts is unspecified by the law but is likely to be a minimum of three weeks, according to Swiss government site 
Some larger companies may also pay your monthly basic health insurance (LaMal) premiums, and/or offer a GA rail card – benefits which effectively add thousands to your salary.  
Con: Poor maternity and paternity leave
Photo: gstockstudio/Depositphotos
Women in Switzerland are entitled to a maximum of 14 weeks paid maternity leave at 80 percent of salary, up to 196 francs a day. That’s a poor showing when compared to the much more generous policies of many other European countries (although, if you’re from the US where there’s no statutory paid maternity leave you may think differently). 
As for fathers, Switzerland offers no statutory paternity leave at all, with most new dads only allowed to take one ‘family day’ for the birth of their child – though some companies are more generous. 
The issue of introducing statutory paternity leave or bringing in shared parental leave has been rebuffed by parliament many times in recent years, though the Swiss may finally get to have their say if a popular initiative on the subject goes to a referendum
Con: Expensive childcare
If you’ve got children, working in Switzerland comes with a hefty financial burden given the cost of childcare. A full-time nursery place in Geneva and Zurich costs between 13 to 20 percent of a family’s income, compared with just 4-6 percent in neighbouring countries. 
However the federal government has been looking into ways to change this, last year suggesting a 100 million franc pot to help cantons provide childcare subsidies to parents.