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Engaging GenZ in the Workplace

A common refrain from managers and HR professionals is that GenZ employees need to be more engaged. There's some truth this view of GenZ Employee Enagement but also some important, subtle shading. For example, according to statistics compiled by Gallup, GenZ is slightly more likely to be disengaged than other generations in the workplace, with 54% reporting being "Not Engaged" and another 15% reporting being "Actively Disengaged."

Increase Gen Z Engagement and Productivity

Those numbers don't look good, but to fully appreciate them, some context is needed. Here Gen Z compares against older generations:

  • Gen Z: 54% Not Engaged, 15% Actively Disengaged
  • Millennials: 51% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged
  • Generation X: 49% Not Engaged, 19% Actively Disengaged
  • Boomers: 50% Not Engaged, 17% Actively Disengaged

So, while it's true that employees hailing from GenZ tend to be slightly more likely to be "Not Engaged," they're also somewhat less likely to be actively disengaged, making it essentially a push when you look at the big picture.

This reputation of GenZ disengagement isn't truly deserved. It largely persists because relatively few managers understand this younger generation. Our goal in this article is to shine a light on GenZ to help foster better understanding. Let's take a closer look.

What Are The Key Differences Between GenZ Employees and Other Generations?

Referring back to the Gallup Statistics, we find five key points of differentiation between GenZ and other generations in the workplace. They are:

  • GenZ workers report a higher incidence of stress (68%, versus 63% for older Millennials, 56% for Gen Xers, and 40% for Boomers)
  • Younger employees (GenZ and young Millennials) are 6% more attracted to significant increases in income or improvements to their total benefits packages (67% vs. 61%).
  • Younger employees, as defined above, also place relatively more importance on work-life balance (65% vs. 58%).
  • They are significantly more interested in opportunities that accelerate their professional or career development (37% vs. 20%)

Finally, and this may surprise many managers and HR professionals, younger employees, as defined above, are much less likely to accept a new position simply on a company's reputation or brand strength (just 29% vs. 41% for older generations).

These differences demonstrate a stark contrast between GenZ employees and the older generations you may be more accustomed to working with.

What are GenZers Like In the Workplace?

You'll note several differences that separate GenZ employees from the rest of the pack. Among them are:

  • They are the most tech-savvy generation ever by a wide margin. They may know more about cutting-edge technology than you do.
  • Unlike older generations of workers, they require relatively more feedback and communication from their managers.
  • And they particularly enjoy a high degree of autonomy.

To manage your GenZ workforce, you'll almost certainly be in for a rough time if you micromanage. They prefer to be given the broad parameters of a task and set loose upon it, with you providing feedback at periodic intervals so they can correct it as needed. Bonus points for you if the job you have them working on involves tech. Most GenZers will take to that like a fish to water.

Why Don't I Get GenZ Humor In The Office?

Right now, across the internet, members of GenZ and the Millennial generation are sniping good-naturedly at each other about their respective senses of humor, with GenZers saying that most Millennial humor is cringe-worthy and Millennials being mystified at the things GenZ finds humorous, so what's the story here?

The simple answer is that GenZ humor tends to be subtle and is driven by the complex and ever-shifting social media landscape.

Take, for example, a long-running gag created by TikTok user @emilyffsge. In one of her videos, she suggested to her viewers that they all reference a fake 80s horror movie called "Zepotha," remarking on other people's videos that they look like characters from this movie that don't exist.

As a concept, it exploded among GenZers. Within just a few days, they had created new video filters, a detailed plot outline of the nonexistent film, fan fiction, fan cams, and more. Unless you were in on the original video, all of this seems more mystifying than hilarious.

It's also worth mentioning that Gen Z humor is often derived from absurdism, making it more "anti-humor" than the jokes that older generations find funny. The best way to "get" GenZ humor is to immerse yourself in their social media spaces. By being in present in their online space, you will find out what's trending on Tiktok and more. Barring that, you won't have a frame of reference for much of it.

Do GenZers Enjoy Being In The Office?

The answer to this question is almost categorically no. Referring back to the introduction of this piece, recall that GenZers place great importance on work-life balance. Working from home is a big part of that and will help lower the stress level of this high-stress generation of workers.

Even if you can't have them working from home five days a week, if you can arrange it so that they can work from home even a couple of days a week, that'll go a long way with this younger generation.

What Are Some Common Stereotypes About GenZers?

There are two big ones you hear time and again. The first one we mentioned at the very beginning. Although inaccurate, GenZers are known for being not overly engaged in the workplace. That, in turn, leads to a generalized belief that they're lazy.

Some people may assume that GenZ individuals lack work ethic or are always glued to their phones. However, it's important to remember that these are just stereotypes and not true for everyone. Each person should be judged on their own merits and abilities, regardless of their age or generation.

This new generation is simply somewhat less actively engaged than the older generations, they're also slightly less likely to be actively disengaged, and the notion that they're primarily lazy stems from the fact that they respond differently to incentives.

In a related vein, another stereotype paints GenZ as being "high maintenance" employees. This stems from focusing on the fact that they enjoy managerial feedback at regular intervals. That makes them slightly higher touch than average, but they need to be higher maintenance.

Remember, GenZ generally prefers a high degree of autonomy and the freedom to accomplish the objectives you set for them in their way. Does that sound high maintenance to you? Please give them a job to do and turn them loose!

One thing to mention before we leave this section is the fact that one excellent way to keep GenZers engaged is to have an active, vibrant employee recognition program. These younger workers respond to that more favorably than older generations as it gives them the periodic feedback they desire and praise for a job well done!

Understanding How to Increase GenZ Employee Engagement

GenZ already dominates today's workforce, comprising 46% of the total. Learning how best to use this young, vibrant, incredibly tech-savvy generation is key to your organization's long-term success, no matter what business you're in. To harness their potential you will need to increase employee engagement.

The key things to remember when managing your GenZ workforce are as follows:

  • You'll have to work at increasing their engagement.
  • They care about their career development. Giving them plenty of development opportunities should be a key priority if you want to engage them.
  • They tend to be somewhat more touchy than older generations, preferring feedback from management at regular intervals. They also tend to be highly responsive to the recognition that comes with a well-run Employee Recognition program.
  • Hand in hand with the above, though, they don't respond well to micromanagement, thriving in areas where they are given a high degree of autonomy.
  • Work-life balance is a crucial consideration for this generation of employees. Suppose you, as a manager or member of your company's HR staff, demonstrate concern for their well-being (including, but not limited to, letting them work from home as often as is practical). In that case, they'll reward you with higher engagement and productivity.

GenZ will continue to dominate the workplace landscape for decades to come. Management teams that learn to manage this group effectively will create powerful long-term advantages over their competitors, who need to be more savvy when dealing with them and their specific needs.

Take the lessons outlined here to heart and begin implementing them now. You'll be well on your way to creating a robust collection of GenZ employees with management potential who will help guide your company through the immensely challenging decades ahead and help take your firm to new heights. Are you up for the challenge? If you are, they are, too!

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