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How to Engage Gen Z in the Workplace


Generation Z. You might have heard the following adjectives used to describe them, and sometimes in the same breath: purpose-driven. Quiet quitting. Hard-working. Lazy. Entrepreneurs. Security-minded. Principled. Perk-loving. Difficult. Obsessed with environmental impact. Prioritizes salary above all else. Needs regular mental health days.

We could go on. 

With more and more of the new generation entering the world of work every day, employers have to answer the question: how do I effectively engage them, and prepare them to perform at their best in the workplace?

With all these stereotypes, assumptions and conflicting viewpoints, we’re currently looking at an unclear picture of who Gen Zers are and what they care about. And this means it’s hard to reach a conclusion about the best path to take for your business. 

One way of cutting through the noise is to think about how this generation grew up, as well as where they work, and use it to inform your approach. 

Let’s dive in - or if you want to skip ahead: 

Who are Gen Z, and are they actually different?

Google anything about Gen Z, and you’ll be hit by a myriad of insights.  

There are the ‘good’ Gen Z values: they’re concerned about climate change, they really care about their contribution, they prioritize learning new skills and meaningful work, they’re focussed on DE&I.

There are also negative claims leveled: they’re lazy, they’re stubborn, they will only do remote work, they see work just as a means to living, they’re obsessed with work-life balance, they’re picky about work environment.  

Let’s take a minute to question this approach. By viewing the Gen Z workforce as a new, almost alien species to the world of work, we’re assuming that no other worker has the same priorities. In reality, the differences aren’t quite as clear-cut. 

For example, a recent Deloitte study revealed that 86% of Gen Zs value having a sense of purpose at work - but so do 89% of Millennials. The same study found that 2 in 10 of both Gen Z and Millennials had changed jobs or industries due to their environmental values.  50% of Gen Zs and 43% of Millennials have turned down a project based on their personal ethics or beliefs. 

Look elsewhere, and you’ll find even more similarities. For example, both generations believe that training is the most or one of the most important factors influencing employee engagement. 

Rather than viewing demographics as separate entities, it’s perhaps more useful to see the new generation of workers’ wants and desires as representative of a systemic change in how we all think about work; a change that’s been influenced by macro factors such as the pandemic, global insecurity, economic downturns, and the climate crisis. 

The other huge change we need to consider is technology. The new ways in which all generations now use it - through our phones and laptops, from anywhere and often near-constantly - impact everything at work, from where we work to how we communicate to our learning preferences.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t investigate how we can engage Gen Z in the workplace - after all, they are going to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030. It just means we should take a different approach. 

How should we view Gen Z at work?

What else can be said for this generation, aside from the societal and technological changes which have subconsciously changed the behaviors of Gen Z and their elders?

Another common thread is the industries in which they tend to be employed. While there’s lots of conflicting thinking surrounding what Gen Z wants to be - doctor, entrepreneur, engineer, or TikTok influencer?  - there is one common denominator. 

45% of Gen Zs say their career path includes either a part- or full-time paying side job, the predominant reason for this being extra income. Some choose to work for themselves - and others work for an employer. Common industries for these types of employers include:

  • Retail
  • Hospitality 
  • On-demand platform
  • Manufacturing 
  • Logistics 

Looking at this type of work gives us a lens through which to view Gen Z at work. After all, you wouldn’t expect to treat a corporate employee who’s in the office 5 days a week in the same way you would a shift-based retail worker, would you?

Why should we care about Gen Z at work?

Effectively engaging and training the new generation is important for them - and for your business too. Let’s go back to common full- or part-time roles Gen Z are likely to work in. When it comes to employee retention, these industries are in a bad state. To take just two examples: 

  • Retail employees leave their roles at a rate that’s over four times higher than the average churn rate in other industries 
  • The hospitality industry faces a turnover rate of over 70% for hourly employees 

At the heart of poor retention rates is poor engagement. Engaged employees are 87% less likely to leave an organization than disengaged employees. 

Simply put, these businesses need to engage these employees for their survival. Employee engagement and retention can be the deciding factor on whether they sink or swim; staffing crises lead to poor customer service, unfulfilled business functions, and more.  

Keeping Gen Z - and those that share the same values - engaged and committed to their businesses is equally important for both the wellbeing of the worker and for the future of these industries. 

So, what action can we take? 

How to save Gen Z engagement and retention rates

Match their technology expectations

We’re sure you’ve heard this one before: Gen Z are digital natives. True, but that doesn’t mean you should jump to giving your employees fancy MacBooks.

60% of frontline workers are currently dissatisfied with the technology they’re provided with to do their work - which is unsurprising when 83% have been given a desktop computer despite not being desk-based. This can’t be ignored: over half of Gen Z workers say they’d quit a job due to a bad technology experience. 

 Rather, think about how this generation consumes today’s technology - invisible, mobile-first and intuitive - and consider how we can integrate these experiences into the working day. 

That means providing easy-to-use technology that blends seamlessly into workflows and can be accessed anywhere. The less friction there is, the more impactful your workers will be - productivity drops by up to 40% when users are distracted thanks to digital fiction like a forgotten password or having to download an app. 

As for what this technology looks like? Let’s take a look at some examples: 

  • Engaging tech experiences that are accessible via handheld devices, like their mobile phones or company tablets
  • UI that mimics social media, making their 9-5 feel more consistent with their ‘5-9’ (non-working hours)   
  • Simple digital journeys that don’t require passwords to log-in or have information siloed across multiple apps 
  • An experience that feels personal to them 
  • A seat at the table through the ability to get involved. For example, creating training content for peers as an SME 

To-the-point training

How many of you have started a video only to put it on 2x speed?

Sound familiar? We’re all low on time - and this is especially true of those in deskless roles, who are often assessed or even paid by the speed at which they can complete tasks. 

As a result, 67% admit not giving training videos their undivided attention. This has knock-on effects on productivity and job satisfaction, which, as we know, are two contributors to engagement and retention. 

Training from your business needs to be as concise and to the point as possible. These learning initiatives should be: 

  • Microlearning experiences 
  • Video content under two minutes - max 
  • Supported with subtitles or text for viewing on-the-go

Give them a voice - and make them feel valued

The employee of today has a desire to be seen as a meaningful contributor from onboarding onwards. We’re also living in a world where anyone can be a creator – all they need to do is pick up their phone. 

Tap into this by giving them a voice, and allowing them to feel seen and have their contribution valued, and you’re providing a standout employee experience. 

There are benefits here for the business, too. Peer-to-peer is an employee’s default learning stream; 70% of learning comes from your own people rather than an outsider. And more effective learning leads to productive, happy employees. 

So, how do you turn every team member into an SME? Give them the chance to create user-generated content which can be shared company-wide. They could be showing their peers how to check brake fluids or prepare a certain takeaway order, for example, or running through what the company culture means to them. 

Want an example? Take a look at how Pet Supermarket teaches its employees to give a great customer experience. 

A UCG approach to content can lead to results such as a 15% lower turnover, which Pet Supermarket experienced by doing just that. Theresa Micheli, their Senior Manager of Store Operations, explains: 

“When you get people involved in building the culture around them and let them know their voice is heard - they’ll stay.”

Engaging Gen Z in the workplace: final thoughts

Figuring out what to do with your latest cohort of employees doesn’t mean sifting through endless facts and opinions about what they want. Rather, think about how our perceptions of work have changed up until today, and apply this knowledge to the specific business you work in. It’s a sure-fire recipe for success for the new generation - and the ones beyond it. 

Want to learn how to bring training to life for the next generation of the workforce? eduMe is a Tik Tok-style learning platform helping businesses like Marriott and The Home Depot create and deliver training that’s more effective and engaging for their frontline workforce.

See how our product supports these experiences in this quick product demo video.