April 24, 2024

How to Motivate Gen Z Employees

Gen Z employees now make up a significant part of most workplaces. In fact, in some sectors and businesses, they’re now the dominant workforce.

But, as many employers and managers from different generations will tell you, Gen Z isn’t always like the generations that have gone before them.  Gen Z’ers often have different values, bring different perspectives and want very different things from their careers.

So, if you’re struggling to understand or get the most out of your Gen Z employees, here’s our advice for helping motivate them.

The factors affecting Gen Z and their careers

Born in the period between 1995 and 2010, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse, more tolerant and more educated than any generation that has gone before it.

They’re also the first generation to be true ‘digital natives’. Many weren’t born into – and most wouldn’t remember – a world without social media and smartphones. 

The backdrop to their lives has been different from previous generations too. Issues like climate change, growing income disparities and the ‘Me Too’ movement have defined the political and practical landscape. Economically, they’ve grown up in an environment where even their parents no longer have jobs for life.

Many would have also entered the workforce during COVID – a time of uncertainty, but also a time when new trends such as remote working and flexibility, digitisation and autonomation became ubiquitous. 

In short, Gen Z has experienced a journey into their working lives that has looked very different from those who have gone before them.

What Gen Z workers want from their careers

The factors we’ve mentioned have often shaped Gen Z’s relationship with employment. 

Studies have found that, unlike older people, many don’t see their work as a central part of their identities. They tend to work to live and don’t live to work.

As a result, work/life balance is a serious priority for many Gen Zers. Yet, the potential to take time away from the office is hampered by the fact that salaries for entry-level jobs have not been going up at the same rate as they have for those at the top.

Gen Zers also often value autonomy and flexibility and want to know they’re making a difference. They’re also much more inclined to take a role that’s in line with their values rather than being motivated purely by financial considerations. 

Employers should keep these factors in mind when managing Gen Z employees. 

And here’s how we believe your workplace should be doing just that

1. Give them purpose

Gen Zers need to know that their work matters, so you should always explain how their role fits into the organisation and what value they’re bringing. Let them into the bigger picture and show them how their contribution helps the business achieve its goals.

HBR suggests you could even really make Gen Zers feel their work matters by asking them to share their “unique skills, capabilities and growth areas” with the team. Then, get each employee for their view on how they could best contribute and develop.

HBR also recommends “creating a dialogue about how each person contributes to the team and its overall impact”. That way, they’ll get a clearer picture of how and why they matter.

2. Give them clarity

HBR reported that Gen Zers like to know what ‘good’ looks like in a role and what they can do to overdeliver. 

“If your company has a matrixed organization, for example, explain how relationship-building, influencing, and team collaboration impact overall performance, as success is not just results but also how the work is done and the impact on others,” it noted.

HBR also observed that transparency around pay is more important to Gen Zers than to previous generations, and they’re likely to share information about pay with each other. 

So control the narrative. Get in before them, and do this yourself where you can by being open about pay and rewards.

3. Give them space

Autonomy, flexibility, the chance to experiment and the opportunity to be creative matter more to Gen Zers than to previous generations. Micromanaging and strict oversight can be counterproductive. 

Instead, provide clear guidelines and expectations but allow Gen Zers the freedom to achieve these in their own way. This approach not only boosts their engagement but also taps into their propensity for innovation. 

The pandemic was the defining feature of the start of many Gen Zer’s careers. While this obviously brought stress, it also meant many Gen Zers experienced remote working right from the get-go. 

As a result, many are accustomed to being able to work when they feel most productive, whether that’s early in the morning or late at night. Offering flexible schedules or work options can go a long way in keeping them motivated.

You could also consider providing opportunities for them to lead projects or initiatives. This not only gives Gen Zer workers a sense of empowerment but demonstrates trust in their capabilities – something that’s crucial for job satisfaction and retention.

4. Give them feedback

Finally, you need to give Gen Z constructive feedback. But, for this generation more than any other, there’s a right and wrong way of doing it. 

As The Washington Post recently noted, Gen Z can take criticism so long as it’s “timely, collaborative, empathetic and balanced”.

More than, anything, though, feedback for Gen Z has to be given in real time. You shouldn’t wait until a performance appraisal. Instead, give feedback as it arises. 

“[I]f f you wait weeks or months to address an issue, fix their mistakes without a conversation or focus only on what went wrong, they just might leave to find a workplace that connects with them better,” it noted.

The Washington Post argues that this is because, as the generation that grew up with the Internet, Google, YouTube and social media, Gen Zers are used to instant answers. 

Just be sure to provide context and explain things in a compassionate and non-patronising way. Few things are likely to turn off Gen Z more than being unfairly (or what they perceive as unfairly) admonished in the workplace. 

In short…

Getting the most out of Gen Z employees may mean adjusting the way you manage, but, get it right, and you’ll be in a good position to capitalise on the skills, ingenuity and creativity of this unique generation.

Want more?

If you’d like to learn more about how to get the most out of your Gen Z employees, get in touch

say hi to our author

Merilyn founded Catalina Consultants in 2012 on the belief that all organisations, regardless of size, should have access to top quality bespoke HR services. She enjoys working closely with her clients and believes that the best results are built on relationships of rapport, trust and authenticity. Growing up, Merilyn had her sight set on stardom and dreamed of becoming an actor. She also sang and played the piano, but ended up studying accounting and HR. Whilst she hasn’t won her Grammy just yet, she still loves a good karaoke night. Merilyn loves to travel with her family, with South Africa being one of her most memorable destinations.

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