Rethinking how to help Gen Z thrive at work: Strategies to motivate, inspire, and reward
Amelia Dunlop and Alicia Serrato
Bosses and business leaders have dubbed Gen Z the most challenging generation, citing a lack of effort, motivation, and productivity. What gives? Also, what would it take to help Gen Zers thrive at work? One hundred and thirty Gen Zers told us their unfiltered point of view in our latest report.
When Oliver took a corporate job after graduating from college, the company flew him and other new employees out to their headquarters for training and to learn about the company’s culture and development opportunities. However, Oliver’s initial excitement and confidence faded as he found himself alone to figure out how to do his new job.
Oliver’s story captures a common sentiment of Gen Zers at work—feeling disconnected, unprepared, and uncared for despite the best intentions of their bosses. Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, are digitally savvy, entrepreneurial, socially conscious, and comfortable voicing their opinions on social media. Popular Gen Z-led trends like #ActYourWage, #RageApplying, and #QuietQuitting illustrate a pressing need for leaders to rethink how to cultivate a more supportive and positive work environment for Gen Zers and all employees.
What Gen Z wants at work
In March, we shared What Gen Z actually wants at work based on our survey of 2,000 Gen Zers and 600 bosses. In brief, Gen Z wants to be heard, supported, seen for who they authentically are, and given the space and opportunity to thrive as they develop their personal and professional selves. So, how can leaders continue cultivating better working relationships with Gen Z and help them achieve their individual goals?
We collaborated with Gauge to ask influential Gen Zers this very question. We heard from over 130 racially and ethnically diverse Gen Z employees who shared ideas for what their boss and/or employer could do to help them thrive at work.
Employees who do not feel like they are growing their career with their current organization are 2.5x more likely to leave for another organization in the next 12 months.
Here are three Gen Z-approved strategies and ideas to elevate your workforce experience and help Gen Z employees thrive.
Gen Zers are digital natives who consume information differently than past generations. 40% of Gen Zers prefer using social media as a search tool for advice and how-to’s. Leaders should consider exploring ways to embed bite-sized learning (e.g., pop-ups, reels) to teach new skills on the job.
Idea in Action: An extensive professional social network has adopted the short-video presentation style with its nano tips courses. Employers could embed similar nano explainer videos into their programs to help Gen Zers navigate new tasks.
For Gen Z, mental health support and policies are critical criteria when considering a potential employer. Some Gen Zers in our study felt a disconnect between stated company policies around mental health and the ability to use those benefits without fear of judgment or repercussion. Leaders should take action to reduce the stigma around taking time off and support employee well-being.
Idea in Action: A large consulting firm shuts down for a company-wide summer and winter disconnect. Employees are given extended holidays to unplug, reset, and recharge during this period. This way, many employees feel less self-conscious about taking time off and worry less about work piling up while they are away.
Gen Zers agree that bosses have an outsized impact on job satisfaction; however, most bosses don’t know how to support Gen Z employees. The Gen Zers we spoke to shared the importance of constant communication and feedback between them and their manager. Beyond one-on-one check-ins, leaders should consider exploring ways to equip managers with relevant employee sentiment data so they can adjust their approach accordingly.
Idea in Action: A software company has a system that can be configured to deliver just-in-time nudges to bosses aligned with specific behavioral goals (e.g., seeking feedback). Based on employee survey data, it helps bosses identify and address manager performance gaps and provides actionable tips for their day-to-day work.
Why rethinking support for managers matters
Employees who are satisfied with communication from managers AND senior leadership are 4.3x more likely to have a positive overall experience. Trust and effective communication with leadership exhibit the strongest positive influence on workforce experience metrics.
Gen Z is transforming and disrupting the modern workplace. Unlike other generations, Gen Zers seek employers with policies and cultures supporting their mental health, personal well-being, and professional development. This demonstrates the actual value of experience to one’s organization and makes the case for investment as a chief experience officer (CXO).
Employers can demonstrate their investment in helping Gen Z succeed by putting new technology to work, processing data at scale to better understand and measure experiences, and designing and implementing solutions like the ones presented here.
What is your company doing to help Gen Z thrive? What would rethinking onboarding or learning for Gen Z look like at your company? We’d like to hear from you.
Amelia Dunlop is the chief experience officer for Deloitte Digital, where she helps companies tackle their toughest problems and develop winning strategies that combine innovation, creativity, and digital strategy. Amelia is also the author of Elevating the Human Experience: Three Paths to Love and Worth at Work and co-author of The Four Factors of Trust: How Organizations Can Earn Lifelong Loyalty—both bestselling books. She received Consulting Magazine’s 2020 Top Women in Technology Award for Excellence in Innovation.
Alicia Serrato is a senior design researcher and strategist for Deloitte Digital. Trained in organizational psychology, behavioral science, and human-centered design, she helps leaders understand workers like they do customers and design workforce experience solutions that cultivate trust and loyalty.