The youngest segment of the workforce has sometimes been judged as tough to please. But our newest research on workplace trends shows that Gen Z employees care about and look for engaging workplaces, including when they have a hybrid or remote work environment.
In some cases, that search for engagement is hindered by company culture, with half of Gen Z employees struggling to find a sense of culture and belonging at their company.
Gen Z are also dealing with things like confusion about workplace norms, and even technical difficulties. For example, despite having a tech-savvy reputation, 88% of Gen Z employees report difficulties finding the right digital documents while working remotely. That’s actually more than their Millennial (61%), Gen X (51%), and Boomer (49%) counterparts.
These are stats from our recently released 2022 Workplace trends & insights report: Building a hybrid future that works for everyone. We surveyed 800 full-time U.S. employees at large organizations, including 150 IT managers, about their top struggles, goals, and motivators in the workplace. And the report reveals key insights about the specific ways that Gen Z is both thriving and struggling in the workplace.
Here are some employee engagement strategies for Gen Z, based on the latest research:
1. Avoid making generational assumptions
While a significant chunk of this working generation – generally considered aged 24 and younger – is looking for engagement, that of course means different things to different young staffers.
After all, we're talking about a generational cohort that covers not only a wide range of ages but also education level, life experiences, skillsets, interests, and desires.
Don't assume that your youngest talent knows everything about the technology they need to use to do their jobs. For example, Gen Z has a reputation as being internet savvy digital natives. But familiarity with social media or mobile technology doesn’t necessarily translate to common office technologies – especially in workplaces that rely heavily on legacy systems.
Communicating over messaging apps may be second nature to Gen X employees but Gen Z might be unfamiliar with the features of Microsoft Outlook, for example.
As the gap between the tech they use in their non-work lives and those they rely on at work grows, so can the sense of confusion and disconnection. Pay attention to their needs and offer them the same support you’d make available to staff in any other age cohort.
Not sure what they need? Ask. Support includes comprehensive employee onboarding as well as ongoing training, especially when your workplace technology changes or an employee’s role shifts.
2. Pay attention to your workplace culture
Nearly three-quarters of employees we surveyed work in a hybrid or remote work environment. About a third of workers hope to work remotely over the long term, but 47% also report missing a sense of camaraderie with their colleagues while doing so.
As you foster a strong workplace culture, it’s important to remember that employees are still experiencing the effects of the pandemic. That looks different for every employee, and for broader segments of the workforce. But it affects Gen Z employees in particular ways.
How? Well, for starters, many Gen Z employees were at the beginning of their working lives when the pandemic was declared in March 2020. That means many lack experience working in person in an office environment. Tasks like recording expenses or booking an in-person meeting can leave some workers unsure of what to do.
The pandemic also shed light on the importance of focusing on employee health and wellbeing. According to LinkedIn, 66% of Gen Z employees want a company culture built on mental health and wellness.
By fostering an open, collaborative workplace experience, where employees know they'll be supported in asking for help, you can ensure there's space for staff members of all ages and backgrounds.
Cultivating a strong workplace culture can be done in traditional ways, of course – like offering in-person training, setting up introductory meetings, and fostering mentorship or internal apprenticeship programs. But hybrid and remote workplaces offer a great opportunity to use technology to further support your employees. Like setting up communities in your digital workplace, for example. A
3. Be open to new ways of working
If you bump up against some tension between the way work is usually done in your organization, and the way Gen Z employees prefer to work, create the time and space to ask questions – and really listen to the responses.
According to this report from Deloitte, Gen Z prefers individual tasks over team-based activities, but they value physical connection and prefer "independence but not isolation."
Some of these differences may be due to generational differences, like Gen Z’s preference for social and collaborative structures – think Google Docs versus Microsoft Word, or Slack versus Microsoft Teams or email. Does your company provide these options for employees who find them valuable? If not, why not? It’s worth looking at providing your staff with new ways of communicating and fostering relationships with each other.
Also keep in mind that Gen Z employees may simply be aware of useful new tools or ways of working that you haven’t heard of or tried. Perhaps a cloud application to manage files is more efficient in your hybrid workplace than a more traditional folder structure on your internal network. Or maybe a move to using a collaborative planning tool could replace some meetings and free up time for everyone.
Every generation has wisdom and insight to offer
Want to know more about workplace generation gaps, and what different employees are struggling with today? Get the report for all the latest digital and hybrid workplace insights.