7 tips to successfully engaging Generation Z in the workplace

shutterstock_43535671I’m sorry. I’m sorry if you feel you’ve already reached your quota of generational engagement challenges in your workplace. Especially as Millennials, seemingly in the blink of an eye, have gone from ‘emerging talent’ to ‘highly influential’ status, as they increasingly move into management and leadership positions.

And I’m sorry if the thought of yet another generation entering the workforce, with their own unique set of complexities, skills, needs and expectations, makes you feel exhausted, or even a little nervous.

But there’s no ignoring the fact that Generation Z (those born between the mid-90’s and early ’00’s) is on its way. In fact, it’s estimated that by 2020, Generation Z will make up over 35% of the workforce.

However, it seems that any trepidation should be replaced by a sense of great anticipation about the skills and perspectives that Generation Z is likely to bring to the corporate table. And the good news is that there are plenty of existing insights and opinions available to help you prepare for this impending surge of new talent.

For a start, research tells us that members of Generation Z are likely to follow the trend set by Millennials when it comes to limited – or highly conditional – employer loyalty, as they search for those conditions (beyond salary), that are most important to them.

So, what makes Generation Z tick?

Here are 7 insights that can underpin your efforts to attract, engage, retain and get the best from this emerging pool of talent.

1. Technology is in their DNA

This generation has never known a world without the internet, mobile phones or social media. They’ve been swiping, like-ing and growing their global social network their entire lives. Using an average of 5 screens per day, Generation Z relies on constantly-evolving technology in all aspects of their lives.

So when it comes to attracting Generation Z talent, social media is an ideal tool, not only to advertise job opportunities, but also to promote your employer brand and pitch a compelling story; one that conveys why they should consider your organisation over the competition, and will attract the right cultural fit amongst prospective candidates.

And once on board, their penchant for all things digital has the potential to have real impact. One big positive is that members of Generation Z are far more likely to embrace technological change within organisations, and can play a key role in areas such as change management, testing and training initiatives.

But even more exciting is the possibility for their skills and insights to help organisations become more innovative and agile in how they adopt, design, develop and use technology.

Of course, these digital natives can only work within their means. Providing a technically nimble environment and seamless technology experience will be crucial both to engaging Generation Z in the workplace, and maximising the benefits they can deliver.

2. Flexibility is a basic expectation

With so much exposure to a virtual world, Generation Z isn’t accustomed to the constraints of a traditional workplace. With a laptop, tablet, or even smartphone on hand, they can happily work from almost anywhere. And with a life relatively free of compartmentalisation, it’s likely they’ll expect their career to slot in amongst everything else. So the ever-blurring line between personal and work life appears to be a natural fit with how this generation operates, and flexibility in work practices is likely to be their default.

But this flexibility must work both ways. Research shows that 73% of Generation Z (versus 48% of the other generations) expects employers to cater to their needs. So agreeing the ideal balance for each party will be key.

3. Make time to talk

Somewhat predictably, Generation Z has a reputed weakness when it comes to interpersonal skills. Luckily, they’re also known to be willing and adept students, so providing training for Generation Z employees to address this shortcoming could prove to be an ideal win-win.

And while it may seem contradictory, employers may be pleasantly surprised to learn that, for 58% of Generation Z, face-to-face is their preferred communication style. So any thoughts of having to communicate via IM while sitting next to each other can be immediately dispensed with.

4. Provide clear direction

Like Millennials, Generation Z wants to be taken seriously; they want to be judged on their performance and ideas, not on their age.

However, where Millenials like to operate autonomously and seek direction and feedback when they feel they need it, Generation Z prefers far more structure and direction. They will look to managers to provide clear guidance and ongoing feedback, meaning that managers who are strong mentors and teachers will be highly sought after and valued by Generation Z employees.

5. Career development is a must-have

In contrast to the optimistic Millennials, Generation Z is described as pragmatic and realistic. Whilst both groups are ambitious, craving opportunities for career advancement, Generation Z hasn’t been labelled with the sense of entitlement often (and sometimes unfairly) associated with Generation Y. Being pragmatists, they appear determined to earn success through hard work, valuable contributions and consistently building on their knowledge and skills.

So in order to attract and retain Generation Z employees, the provision of regular training and development opportunities, as well as pathways for career growth, will be much more than just a nice-to-have.

6. Recognise and reward (regularly!)

This is a generation that’s used to being praised and rewarded for every small achievement. They expect it and thrive on it. So if you’re serious about engaging Generation Z, make sure they’re not left wondering if they’re efforts are appreciated, or worse still, worrying that their hard work has gone unnoticed.

To feel motivated and valued, it’s important for Generation Z employees to have a clear understanding of what’s expected of them, to receive regular feedback and to be given meaningful, timely and suitable recognition or reward for a job well done.

7. Appeal to their altruistic and environmental sensibilities

Members of Generation Z care. They care about the planet, about humanity and about making a positive difference in the world. And while this may not be a uniquely Generation Z trait, what does stand out is the growing importance being placed on working for an organisation that shares these values. In fact, one survey revealed that 87% of Generation Z feels it’s important to work for an employer who gives back to the community (compared to 79% of Generation Y).

So be transparent about how your organisation makes a difference. But also make sure your organisation delivers on its promises in this area; Generation Z highly value honesty and won’t respond well if they feel that your organisation’s values have been mispresented.


Yes, it seems that Generation Z is set to shake up the workforce once more. And as we saw with the growing influence of Millenials, the best time to start planning for their arrival is now.

But dispense with any sense of trepidation. With the immense value that the unique perspectives and skills of Generation Z can offer, this could be an exciting window of opportunity to gain an edge over the competition and propel your organisation into the future.

Businesses that take the time to prepare will be best placed to grab hold this opportunity. Those that lag behind may well be sorry.


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