As business and HR leaders, how can we successfully engage the newest workforce generation? Here’s what motivates Gen Z in the workplace.

According to the World Economic Forum, Generation Z (Gen Z) will make up about a quarter of the world’s workforce by 2025. Loosely defined as those born between the mid-to-late 1990s and the early 2010s, these digital natives are a large, diverse, socially aware, and tech-savvy group. They value work-life balance and corporate social responsibility. They’ve also been labeled “entitled” and, in a survey by Resume Builder, “difficult to work with.”

What motivates Generation Z? As business and HR leaders, how can we successfully engage this newest work generation? Here are six factors that motivate Gen Z in the workplace.

 

First, Remember the Gen Z Workforce Entry

Before we delve into motivational factors, let’s take a quick peek at the workforce “coming of age” experience for Gen Z. Just as the oldest among them were entering the workforce, the pandemic arrived to dramatically shape their educational experience and transition to the workplace.

Education – from elementary through college – was disrupted by the pandemic, hitting this generation squarely in the face with mass remote learning. Overnight, they lost the chance for in-person interactions with classmates, teachers, and staff. Learning was disrupted as technologies were adapted, access to online learning was figured out, and remote teaching best practices were established.

Many internships and part-time job opportunities were suspended during the pandemic. And a whole wave of Gen Z workers started their employment or early careers without in-person managers, colleagues, or company leader meetings.

In isolation, their interpersonal skills didn’t fully develop, and the mental health of many suffered. This overlay shapes how Gen Z is navigating the workplace today.

 

What Motivates Gen Z in the Workplace

Gen Z is motivated by various factors in the workplace.

1. Purposeful Work: Gen Z is motivated by a sense of purpose. They seek jobs that align with their values and contribute to a greater cause. They want to help figure out ways to better the world and like when their job and tasks contribute to something bigger.

Even if the tasks themselves are somewhat repetitive, companies that emphasize the meaningful impact of the work are more likely to attract and engage Gen Z talent.

2. Professional Growth Opportunities: Continuous learning and opportunities for professional development are crucial for Gen Z. Growing up in a 24/7 digital world, Gen Z individuals are used to getting answers quickly. They expect instant entertainment and seek out new experiences.  Some would say they have a short attention span and get bored quickly. They don’t want a job that gets stale quickly.

Gen Z individuals are motivated by goals and meaningful contributions. They want to acquire new skills and competencies, take on challenging projects, and advance in their careers. When they are in meetings and discussions where their ideas and voices are heard, they start to feel trusted and eager to learn.

Employers who provide clear paths for growth and skill enhancement are more appealing. A skills-first approach to hiring and workforce management can keep Gen Z and their employers aligned for the growth trajectory.

3. Work-Life Flexibility: The flexibility to balance work and personal life is a strong motivator for Gen Z. In one survey, 83% of Gen Z employees rated work-life balance as extremely important (54%) or very important (29%). They want to leave work behind when the workday or workweek is over.

  • No meetings on Fridays.
  • Generous vacation policies.
  • Remote work options.
  • Flexible work hours.
  • Reduced work hours.
  • Compressed workweeks.

Providing flexibility aligns with Gen Z’s preference for a balanced lifestyle.

4. Empathy and Wellbeing. Closely aligned with work-life flexibility, Gen Z wants a workplace that supports their mental health and wellbeing.

Author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek urges business leaders to dig a little deeper ‒ with empathy ‒ when it comes to Gen Z’s sense of entitlement. The “apparent self-confidence” they bring to the work may be false, masking an insecure generation that struggles with coping mechanisms.

  • Excellent mental health benefits.
  • Paid mental health days.

And a culture that sees and supports individuals with empathy is a good fit for Gen Z employees.

5. Inclusive and Collaborative Culture: Gen Z values a workplace culture that is inclusive, diverse, and encourages collaboration. Because their social skills are underdeveloped, taking extra care to pair Gen Z employees with others may reap great benefits.

When onboarding new employees, look for opportunities to bring on several at one time. A cohort experience can help build meaningful workplace relationships. It also helps to overcome the “imposter syndrome” fear that they don’t belong, reinforcing the expectation that no one knows what they need to know on day one. Training, observations, and asking questions will build connections, skills, and confidence.

  • Learning together.
  • Shadowing others from across teams as part of the training and onboarding.
  • Collaborative work.
  • Opportunities to be peer guides or to train others once an individual masters the basics of their jobs.
  • Team lunches or other group activities.

Activities and environments that foster teamwork, open communication, and the opportunity to work with a diverse group of individuals is appealing to Gen Z employees.

6. Recognition and Feedback: Regular feedback and recognition for their contributions are essential motivators for Gen Z. They appreciate constructive feedback and acknowledgment of their achievements.

It helps, too, when there is a strong precedent of promotion from within the company. Gen Z workers can see that there is room to grow. And being surrounded by others with deep knowledge of their jobs helps to build knowledge, skills, confidence, and a desire to continue learning.

Companies that have a culture of recognition and appreciation tend to have more motivated Gen Z employees.

 

Motivating Generation Z in the workplace involves creating an environment that aligns with their values and preferences. A sense of purpose, opportunities to grow, flexibility and empathy, recognition, and feedback, and ensuring accessibility and openness fosters a sense of inclusion for all generations, at every stage of their career. By understanding and implementing these strategies, employers can create a workplace that actively engages Generation Z, resulting in higher satisfaction, productivity, and retention.

If you’re asking yourself what motivates Gen Z in the workplace and want to do something about it, read the Competency Management Toolkit for tips on building skills-first culture that includes, guides, and develops every individual. Or contact us to see if Avilar’s WebMentor Skills™ competency management systems may support your team.

 

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