Young Workers are Less Engaged – Employers, Better Get Your Act Together NOW!

Say what you want about Millennials & Gen Z’ers, but the reality is they are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history, the largest growing percentage of the workforce, and the key to your organization’s future success. If you want to attract, retain, and keep them engaged, your company culture and policies are going to have to adapt.

What we know: According to a 2022 Gallup poll, 54% of Gen Z employees are ambivalent or not engaged at work. They are also more likely to quit their jobs without another lined up, according to a 2023 report. Some might argue this is a loyalty problem. The research suggests otherwise. Young professionals are disengaged at work because they feel less cared about, have no opportunities for growth, and lack someone who encourages their development.

Here are 5 things employers can do to create a collaborative, committed, and engaged team…

Incentivize with clear paths to career progression

Understanding performance metrics and knowing what is expected for advancement puts them in control of their future and builds the job security they want. This, in turn, increases engagement. Explain what it means to succeed as an individual contributor and a future leader. Pay advancement and equity is also important to them. Transparency about salary demonstrates your commitment to both.

Build a healthy & inclusive culture

Many young job seekers are searching for companies that take diversity, equity, and inclusion seriously. They also want to feel a sense of belonging and community. This can be challenging with the increase in remote and hybrid working… but not impossible. Some organizations have established employee resource groups that support underrepresented employees and ensure their voices and opinions are incorporated into the decision-making. Location work autonomy empowers employees and sends a message of trust, but creating opportunities for in-person interactions allows for the connections and camaraderie these generations are looking for. Shared team experiences like team building activities, project kickoffs, team celebrations, and state-of-the-business/team discussions are excellent ways to do this. Remote activities such as virtual “coffee chats” during business hours or recognizing the contributions of one member during a team meeting work, too.

Bring your values to life

LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence report found 80% of Gen-Z employees are looking to work for companies whose values better align with their own. Addressing their desire for a better work-life balance with flexible hours or a four-day workweek are two examples we’ve seen. Social responsibility is also high on the socially-conscious generation’s list of priorities, and corporate responsibility mandates are not going to cut it. Weaving that consciousness into the policies, procedures, culture, and mission of the organization does.

Explain how their individual contributions matter

This isn’t about “getting a trophy just for showing up.” These are purpose-driven generations who want to feel they are contributing to the success of an organization they respect. Acknowledging how they help to support or represent the organization’s mission builds respect, loyalty, connectivity, and, in turn, engagement. No one wants to work for someone who doesn’t acknowledge their efforts. Sharing positive feedback regularly verbally or via email goes a long way. Consider setting up discussions to speak about the team’s vision and impact on the organization, demonstrating how their role matters and highlighting the organization’s positive impact on the world.

Prioritize Wellness & Mental Health to Show You Care

As a leader, it is your shared responsibility not just to elevate the team’s performance but also to support their well-being to perform at their best. It might seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning: Start by asking your team members how they are doing. This builds a shared connection and opens up avenues of communication and deeper conversation. Addressing what impacts the team will improve their overall effectiveness and allow you to manage timelines and priorities around mental wellness just as you would for physical illness. But talk is cheap if there aren’t practices in place. Implement benefits and practices that your employees’ mental health. Flexible schedules, mandated mental health days, and employee resource groups are great examples. There’s a lot of pressure on leaders to manage the health of their employees as well as manage their job! So, ask your organization to provide you with training opportunities to learn about mental health-related benefits and policies or communication tools with which you can effectively discuss mental health issues.