Human resources and their newly formed “people teams” are having their moment and rightly so—they are the key to the most important brand ambassadors any company can have: its employees. This is where effective and meaningful employee engagement comes in. And now, there’s a new generation entering the workforce. They’re the frontlines of Gen Z (those born between 1995 and 2010) and mark the dawn of a new breed of workers. They deeply care about purpose, impact, and getting stuff done.
Gen Z wants more from social good activations. Social good initiatives offer a valuable source of pride for employees and contribute to the overall culture of the brand. And corporate pride is vital for bottom-line success. According to a recent LinkedIn + Imperative report, only 1 in 3 workers are engaged in their jobs. But purpose-oriented workers consistently outperform workers who are less engaged and lack a strong sense of professional purpose. As the most socially active generation ever, Gen Z wants more than just the once-a-year volunteer day and annual fall corporate giving program. To appeal to their sense of purpose, you’ll need to create opportunities for employees to engage in your social good initiatives year-round.
Company purpose matters, but it’s not enough. Gen Z wants the company purpose to align with their personal purpose. For example, Unilever offers training for employees to discover their personal purpose. Companies should offer a variety of engagement opportunities, from simply cutting a check to ongoing, participatory volunteer efforts, that allow for alignment with personal interests and time constraints.
Empower everyone. Gen Z has an entrepreneurial spirit and does best when given a chance to share their ideas and the freedom to own their own work (we’re talking to you, micromanagers). Rather than just empowering the HIPPOs (Highest Paid People in the Office), Gen Z expects a more inclusive, transparent culture. Young people want to feel like they are being heard and that they provide value to the company. Provide forums where anyone can present and weigh in on what’s valuable to the organization and what’s not.
Give continuous feedback. Annual performance reviews don’t cut it anymore. Young people have grown up on social media where there is a constant feedback loop so they expect the same at work. According to Randstad‘s Gen Z and Millennials Collide @ Work study, feedback needs to be frequent and actionable or they check out. Setting up a structure, like weekly check-ins and quarterly reviews, is strong, but even better is commenting on their performance at the moment. And this is not the time to blanketly praise anyone—young people want to improve at their jobs so they can handle direct, constructive criticism.
The common sentiment that young people are “entitled” and “not willing to do grunt work” is just misguided. In fact, Gen Z is willing to put in the time and effort…they just want their work to be noticed, valued, critiqued even. And more than anything, they want their work to matter, in the bigger sense—they want it to have purpose and impact, on their community and in the world. Treating them as competent, creative, and capable employees will result in a better, more engaged workforce.