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January 20, 2023

7 ways to keep your Gen Z employees engaged and motivated

Daily Briefing

    Writing for the Harvard Business Review, Jenny Fernandez, Julie Lee, and Kathryn Landis outline seven strategies leaders can use to engage and motivate Gen Z workers "to create a team dynamic of collaboration, commitment, and sustained motivation."

    Jenny Fernandez is a leadership coach, advisor, and mentor, as well as a professor at Columbia Business School and New York University (NYU). Julie Lee is a clinical psychologist, consultant, and director of technology and mental health for Harvard Alumni for Mental Health. Kathryn Landis is the founder and CEO of the global coaching and advisory firm Kathryn Landis Consulting and an adjunct professor at NYU.

    1. Be transparent 

    Since Gen Z is the "first fully digital native generation," leaders "must prioritize transparency and shift your managing and communication style from a 'need-to-know' policy to an 'open-access' one," the authors write.

    "Access to information will alleviate Gen Z's anxieties and allow them to process and feel in control," they note.

    To identify potential areas of improvement around communication, the authors suggest reflecting on the following questions with team members:

    • Do I currently have a two-way dialogue with team members across multiple communication mediums? 
    • Have I made room to share and discuss the team's strategy and impact on the organization? Does the team know how their role impacts the strategy? 
    • Do I leverage our team meetings to discuss results, performance, and future outlook, given the impact of new information? 
    • Do I regularly ask the team for feedback about where we need more transparency or clarity, including clear roles and responsibilities, expectations, etc.? 

    2. Discuss salary and career progression

    According to the Pew Research Center, "half of the oldest Gen Zers (ages 18 to 23) reported that they or someone in their household had lost a job or taken a cut in pay because of the [Covid-19] outbreak."

    For most Gen Z workers, understanding performance metrics and what success looks like in their role is vital. "These employees want to know what is expected of them to advance and how they can be in control of their future," the authors write. Leaders should explain how these workers can succeed as an individual contributor and a future leader.

    In addition, leaders should conduct group discussions about salaries so Gen Z workers can clearly see the organization's commitment to pay equity.

    "As Gen Z are sharing the salary information openly with one another, they expect their employers to share the information more openly and affirm organizational commitment to pay equity," the authors write. "Having conversations about salary and career progression in the open will go a long way with Gen Z."

    3. Demonstrate the impact of individual and team contributions

    Gen Z's desire to understand how their contributions support their organization sets them apart. To address this, managers should schedule sessions to discuss the team's goals and impact on the organization.

    "We all need to understand our roles and responsibilities to do our jobs, but Gen Z needs to understand how and why their role matters," the authors note. To facilitate these conversations, leaders can take the following steps:

    • Invite team members to briefly outline their unique skills, capabilities, and growth areas with the team. Then, ask each team member to suggest ideas on how to contribute and identify development opportunities.
    • Establish a dialogue about how each team member contributes to the team and its impact, helping these workers visualize how their efforts play a role in the company

    4. Provide autonomy

    Because Gen Z was raised "with unfettered access to information," they typically want to make their own informed decisions, according to the authors. "They need room for experimentation to prove themselves," they note.

    To keep Gen Z workers motivated, the authors suggest implementing a flexible management style that gives these workers "greater room and autonomy to explore and figure out improvements in work processes."

    Meanwhile, leaders should "[c]reate opportunities for these workers to lean-in on their strengths such as leveraging technology, social media and their desire for connection," giving them "a new way to enroll them in your vision while driving engagement."

    5. Give targeted, constructive feedback

    To show an interest in Gen Z workers' success, leaders should aim "to provide continuous, clear feedback with real-life examples of what is working or not working, and action steps that increase your Gen Z team's self-awareness," the authors write. 

    Leaders can use this as a "coaching opportunity" by asking team members to reflect on questions like:

    • What does success look like in a given situation?
    • What are you learning from this particular workstream or project?
    • What has been challenging for you on the team and what suggestions do you have for improving?

    6. Find ways to connect

    Many Gen Z employees have only experienced a remote or hybrid workplace, resulting in fewer opportunities to form "deep professional relationships that are often created in person over a period of time," the authors note.

    "As a manager, you may consider giving them location work autonomy to choose their desired hybrid/remote working structure," they add. "Autonomy of choice has been proven to increase employee engagement."

    Still, leaders should also create opportunities for in-person interactions that will help workers establish connections and feel camaraderie.

    7. Emphasize wellness and mental health

    According to a Gallup poll, Gen Z's number one wish for their leadership is that they prioritize well-being and mental health.

    "As a leader, it is your shared responsibility not just to elevate the team's performance but also support their well-being to perform at their best," the authors write. "Thus, organizations and leaders must create a culture, practices and resources that support Gen Z's mental wellness." (Fernandez et al., Harvard Business Review, 1/18)

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