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Values guiding our work with Gen Z


Annika Konttinen

lehtori, matkailuliiketoiminta
Senior Lecturer, tourism business
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Anu Seppänen

lehtori, markkinointi ja viestintä
Haaga-Helia ammattikorkeakoulu

Published : 14.02.2024

Values are the guiding light when we are lost in the complex and uncertain world. They offer us a solid foundation and a reliable compass to navigate in turbulent times. We need an ethical base to build on, for education and future careers of our students.

Haaga-Helia (2024) has selected five values that guide us in our work on the campus and beyond. They are accountability, collaboration, courage, respect and transparency. According to studies (Ernst & Young 2021; Deloitte 11.5.2023; McKinsey & Company 20.3.2023 ; World Economic Forum 19.4.2023) about what Gen Z values, these resonate rather well with our students.

Accountability and transparency lead to authenticity

According to Vance (1.6.2023), Gen Z tends to perform well when objectives and expectations are clear. It is important to express goals, deadlines, and desired results for tasks in a straightforward manner. As educators, we need to make sure that roles, responsibilities, and how their work influences others are effectively communicated to students. Establishing these expectations from the beginning sets the stage for accountability.

Accountability in the education context can also refer to topics like avoiding plagiarism and citing sources correctly. Last year, Haaga-Helia (6.9.2023) came up with guidelines for using AI in a responsible way. In a long-term view, accountability also means making commitments about sustainability. Haaga-Helia aims to be carbon neutral by 2030 and this needs the helping hands of all campus staff and students. Fortunately, Gen Z wants to do their share to solve the climate crisis and work for companies that make sustainability one of their priorities (McKinsey & Company 20.3.2023).

Gen Z places a high value on authenticity, seeking truth in a world where fake news and curated images dominate. Transparency and openness are how they define authenticity, shaped by growing up in a world marked by scandals, social injustices, and inequalities. This was also one of the conclusions of a study by Ernst & Young (2021), which showed that Gen Z considers authenticity as their top priority, placing it even above future goals and financial success.

An example of transparency in action is ensuring that assessment is carried out as openly as possible. It also means we must be willing to share our skills and knowledge with others. The sharing of teaching materials not only promotes collaboration but also encourages innovation and adaptation in teaching methods and practices. With the latest technology, educators now have unprecedented opportunities to connect with peers, exchange ideas, and access a vast repository of educational materials. Our staff is also encouraged to publish about their work on different forums, e.g., write peer-reviewed articles and blog posts. This is done with the help of Open access publishing policy.

Cultivating collaboration and courage

Collaboration is something that we cultivate on campus every day. Our students and staff work in teams, learning to communicate, collaborate, co-create and solve complex problems together. To promote collaboration, it is vital to create an environment where students feel at ease sharing their ideas, opinions, and concerns. The tech-savvy generation should be nurtured by employing digital platforms for efficient communication, project management, and document sharing. We also need to foster a supportive culture that values the contribution of students, recognising and rewarding achievements while providing constructive feedback to aid professional growth.

As mentioned earlier, Gen Z has strong values relating to sustainability, inclusivity and justice. Parmelee (17.5.2023) states that organisations that support Gen Z’s passion for social impact and value a positive work climate will have a more engaged and motivated workforce. Therefore, courage manifests itself in educating our students to become change agents and having the competence to act on sustainability issues at companies. Tackling topics related to responsibility often requires a dose or two of courage. We motivate our students to experiment. Sometimes it means failing and having the courage for it.

Learning and earning respect

According to the World Economic Forum (19.4.23), many people are now thinking about not just how they work, but also why they work. Values are particularly important for Gen Z, who will be the biggest generation in many workplaces soon. Diard (2023) argues that Gen Z’s respect for superiors is not solely based on credentials or authority but rather on capabilities, confidence, and effective listening skills. They are not so much after office perks like ping-pong tables and slides but want to be treated like adults and get their voices heard (Perna 7.9.2021). Many companies have started “reverse-mentoring” where Gen Z helps senior employees to better understand Gen Z customers (Deloitte 11.5.2023).

In their future places of work, our students will have to work with all kinds of people with diverse backgrounds, from all walks of life or from all around the world. Many companies are focusing on DEI (diversity, equity and inclusivity) and our students learn about the topics when working on the many projects, commissions and collaborations on campus. In the process, they also learn to tolerate diverse opinions and respect different points of view.

We believe that by the time our students graduate, they are in sync with values needed in the future – and especially what they mean in practice. Values are, after all, the one constant that keeps us sane in the flux surrounding us.


Deloitte 11.5.2023. 3 disconnects between Gen Z and their bosses. Accessed: 5.2.2024

Ernst & Young 2021. Is Gen Z the spark we need to see the light? Accessed: 1.2.2024

Haaga-Helia 6.9.2023. How to use AI in your studies – see practical guidelines. Accessed: 2.2.2024

Haaga-Helia 2024. Haaga-Helia’s strategy and values. Accessed: 1.2.2024

McKinsey & Company. 20.3.2023. What is Gen Z? Accessed: 1.2.2024

Vance, T. 1.6.2023. Fostering Accountability in the Workplace: Empowering Gen Z. Accessed: 5.2.2024