The Secret to Engaging Gen Z Employees
Written by Heather Watson, behaviorial designer at The Center for Generational Kinetics. A version of this article originally appeared on the The Center’s blog.
Does it feel like you just started getting used to Millennials’ workplace preferences? Well, it’s time to start adapting to the next generation of workers: Generation Z. What’s the secret to engaging Gen Z at work? Feedback, feedback and more feedback!
Gen Z Employees Want (Very) Frequent Feedback from Managers
In our 2021 Gen Z national study, we discovered that 60% of these younger workers want multiple check-ins from their managers during the week. In fact, of those, 40% want an interaction with their boss daily or several times each day. And while we saw this trend with Millennials, it’s really taking off with Gen Z.
But what does that mean? Do managers need to have hour-long conversations with Gen Z employees, multiple times during the week? Who has that kind of time? In fact, what this group actually wants is not lengthy discussions. Rather, they want consistent recognition.
Gen Z wants to know that you see them and that you appreciate their effort. A two-minute, daily check-in could be all they need. For example, here is a quote from one of our Gen Z focus group participants: “I’m really difficult on myself, so it means a lot to have a supervisor take time out of their day to be physically present and verbally say ‘We value you.’” Feedback and check-ins with their managers are how Gen Z employees know they are doing a good job.
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Unlike the generations before them, such as Gen X and Baby Boomers, Generation Z sees conversations with their managers as a good thing. Many older employees viewed conversations with a boss as trouble. Gen Z, however, will feel something is wrong if managers are distant.
What Kind of Feedback Does Gen Z Want?
Engaging Gen Z at work requires coaching to the performance as well as to the person, which might be unfamiliar territory for Baby Boomers.
Gen Z wants both constructive skills-based feedback as well as personal check-ins. As the new generation in the workplace, they need senior employees, managers, and mentors to help build their skills. Not all of your feedback needs to be confidence boosting or high fives—they don’t need a trophy every 10 minutes. Instead, when you see areas that need development, say, “Hey, I need to show you how to do this differently, more effectively, or more efficiently.”
Additionally, while Gen Z definitely wants feedback on their job performance, they also crave personal interaction. For Gen Z, having a boss that’s also a friend or mentor is key to engagement. As a supervisor, show them you are not only interested in their work, but also their lives outside of work. Get to know them as people, not just employees. Ask about their pets, hobbies, interests, family—anything, as long as you show that you care about their life.
A version of this article originally appeared on the blog of The Center for Generational Kinetics, which was co-founded by EO member Denise Villa-Dorsey Ph.D. (pictured, at left). The Center solves tough generational challenges with Gen Z, Millennials, Gen Y, Gen X and Baby Boomers. The Center delivers custom research, speaking and strategic consulting deliver innovative, practical solutions that drive results.