Engagement can be termed as the commitment towards work or the emotional investment employees have in their jobs. Engaged employees are assets to a workplace because, amongst several reasons, they are more productive, perform better and score highly across wellbeing metrics.
There are a lot of factors that determine whether efforts to engage employees will succeed or land flat. One of those is their age. You might find that the engagement measures that resonate with older employees might be completely lost when you attempt to engage a younger workforce.
As the workforce gets younger, with millennials making up to 50% of the global workforce, and Gen Z increasingly entering the job market, employers need to look at engagement tactics that resonate with these younger employees.
In this article we discuss how employers can successfully engage a younger workforce.
According to research done in Poland, millennials found employers who participated in CSR to be more attractive. Work for younger employees is not just about the pay. They are socially conscious and want to be associated with an organisation that not only seeks to make life better for everyone but is responsible for the impact that its activities have on the world.
As an example, Coca cola works to counter the proliferation of their own plastic waste. With their World Without Waste initiative, they plan to make their custom rigid packaging 100% recyclable by 2025. They also plan to recycle a soda bottle or can for every one they produce. This is the sort of campaign that would engage the socially conscious younger generation.
Younger workers are not comfortable just observing others in the company executing such efforts. Research done by Deloitte in 2020 and 2021 shows that 55% of millennials and 52% of Gen Z donated to a charity. This spirit to drive change follows them into the work place. They will be happy to be actively involved, even if they are not paid for it.
Show them the bigger picture
The interest in the company’s activities doesn’t just stop at social responsibility, younger workers like to know where the company is going and what it wants to achieve. To engage a younger workforce, clarify the company’s goals and objectives and show them their specific roles.
Younger workers are not content to work mindlessly, they derive great pleasure in knowing that they did something to help the company hit a specific target.
Showing younger workers the bigger picture also involves providing updates on how the business has performed against targets and letting them know of any developments that impact the business. Ask for their input where possible and do surveys to collect their thoughts.
Younger generations consider work as an extension of themselves and nothing will make them feel more disengaged than feeling like just another cog in the wheel.
A good way to engage a younger workforce is by providing mentorship opportunities and prioritising growth. Despite their drive to succeed, younger workers might not yet have the right skills to do so. For some, this is as a result of lack of experience as they are just out of school.
One way to do so without increasing spend by much is to have a shadowing program. Younger workers have a chance to observe and learn from their seniors.
Keep in mind not to only teach technical skills; train for emotional intelligence and people skills that younger workers may not have had the chance to hone. Mentorship will have a side benefit of senior employers getting valuable insight from their younger colleagues.
The millennial generation is sometimes also known as the job hopping generation. They are more likely to change jobs and one of the reasons for this is the search for flexibility. They want a job that is flexible enough that they can have a work/life balance.
They need flexibility reflected in when they work, where from and how they work. Working from home has risen during the pandemic and many workers have reported being able to deliver as before. Some, even better. If they are able to meet deadlines and targets, work with your young employees to craft schedules that give them the freedom they crave.
Flexibility is a big one. The Deloitte survey shows that it ranks high for young generations and that they too consider flexibility a trait they need for success in the workplace.
Diversity and inclusion aren’t just catchphrases
Younger generations celebrate their individuality and believe everyone else should have a chance to as well. To keep younger generations engaged, a company’s products and services should not deliberately exclude anyone or any particular group.
In addition, companies should hire diversely and work to provide an environment that caters to employees of different ages, religions and nationalities. Deliberate steps like hiring a diversity and inclusion manager show young workers that this is something a company is taking seriously.
Encourage different management styles
The autocratic leadership style where the boss says ‘Do this’ and expects no dialogue is unlikely to work for younger workers. Younger generations have been raised to be vocal both in their everyday lives and on social media. Climate activists like Greta Thunberg or Vanessa Nakate are just a representation of their generation.
They will flourish in an environment where there is a give and take and where dialogue is treasured. In the absence of that, they will become disengaged or seek greener pastures.
To satisfy this need to engage a younger workforce, companies should adopt a more egalitarian management style or adopt hybrid styles that give this self-aware generation a chance to be in the driver’s seat at least once in a while.
In order to engage a younger workforce, companies need to begin by understanding these generations fully. What are their needs, wants and weaknesses? With this information, it is easier to craft policies guaranteed to keep them engaged. Alternatively, no one knows your younger workers like they do. Ask them what they need to be engaged and they will be happy to tell you.