When someone has done a lot of research into the future of work, it’s worth listening.

At the OEB 2023 conference in Berlin, I was fortunate to attend a presentation by Hartwin Mass – a researcher and futurologist who investigates the future of work. In a recent study, he explored common assumptions regarding Generation Alpha’s approach to work (Gen Alpha are those who were born after the year 2000).

The aim of the research was to investigate the extent to which Gen Alpha’s expectations from employment differ from those of previous generations. 

Education is moving from ignorance to uncertainty.
Once you have uncertainty, you have questions.
The rest is ChatGPT.’

Luciano Floridi.

What younger workers want 

Mass and his team produced the following insights from the research:

  • Many teenagers find it difficult to resolve conflicts. Increasingly, parents step in to solve problems but this prevents their children developing the skills to negotiate and resolve difficult situations.
  • Teenagers felt they were not being taught how to use digital technologies effectively. Schools teach media skills, but little about how to use technology responsibly.
  • Managers complain that younger workers don’t want to lead. In contrast, the research revealed that younger workers were motivated to lead but they felt organisations were not training them how to lead effectively._
  • Many teenagers struggle with FOBO: Fear Of Better Options. While it is easy to disregard this as a first world problem, it is a genuine challenge for teenagers who feel paralysed by the choice of potential roles and opportunities in the job market.
  • Whereas pre-digital generations have experienced the difference between analog and digital, Gen Alpha only know digital. This means when digital doesn’t deliver the required solution, they have no backup plan.
  • Gen Alpha want both freedom and structure. They want flexibility in their working lives, but also clear boundaries to work within.
  • Graduates entering the workplace want to know what the company will do for them, not just what they have to do for the company.
  • A lack of clear paths for progression and promotion can quickly cause younger workers to become dissatisfied and seek alternative employment.
young girl reading a book

Advice for leaders and managers

The findings from Mass’ research indicated there were five main skillsets that younger workers require to survive and thrive. He offered advice about how leaders and managers can adapt the workplace to help them develop these skillsets:

Ability to change

Gen Alpha need support in adapting to an unfamiliar working environment.

  • Provide clear ‘contact partners’ or mentors and ensure they meet regularly. This is particularly important during the onboarding phase.
  • Provide regular, individual coaching sessions where contact partners provide effective training on conflict resolution, negotiation and active listening, and support younger workers to grow and adapt.


Ambiguity tolerance

Gen Alpha struggle to navigate the uncertainties of the workplace

  • Provide effective training on conflict resolution, negotiation and active listening.
  • Provide regular feedback. This feedback should be timely, precise and paraphrased to enable easy application.


Gen Alpha need clear boundaries while they learn what is expected of them.

  • Avoid offering remote working until they are confident in working on their own initiative.
  • Enable younger workers to manage their own time, BUT set clear boundaries, expectations and deadlines for tasks.

Critical thinking

Gen Alpha have grown up on social media and need support in learning how to evaluate information.

  • Use regular coaching sessions to ask questions that help them see beyond information from social media.
  • Create opportunities for ‘real’, in-person experiences so they can experience the social dynamics of the workplace and evaluate them in their coaching sessions. These are also an opportunity for the business to learn from Gen Alpha’s experiences and identify ways to adapt and improve.

Communication skills

Gen Alpha need guidance on how to use digital devices appropriately, and how to communicate professionally in-person.

  • Offer practical guidance on how to use digital technologies, and model it throughout the business. This includes advice on minimising distractions and using appropriate communication channels, and about when it’s not appropriate to use devices.
  • Provide practical opportunities for them to learn how to communicate professionally and listen actively. This might involve mock presentations with targeted feedback, or role plays and simulations that model effective communication.
  • Help them develop their professional network within the business. Create regular opportunities for them to meet people in different departments and roles, and coach them to ask questions and listen actively.

It’s also worth exploring how service design can help clarify the journey into an organisation for younger workers. Used together, learning design and service design are powerful tools that can guide leaders and managers in reshaping the workplace for Gen Z and Gen Alpha.


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