Under 35s in the workplace represent two generations – the younger millennial and the older Gen Z and data predicts that by 2025, Gen Z will account for a quarter of the workforce. Clearly this is an important demographic to understand and prepare for as we think about what the jobs of the future will require to engage our young workers.
The organizations on our Best Workplaces™ for Today’s Youth have clearly tapped into what appeals to these generations as 93% of employees at these companies agree, “Taking everything into account, I would say this is a great place to work.”
It’s not surprising that these organizations are doing an outstanding job in the areas most commonly associated with young worker satisfaction. These include:
- Workplace wellness and good attention to stress management and mental wellness.
- Flexible work options that accommodate a healthy work-life balance.
- Opportunities for development and internal movement both laterally and vertically.
- Strong sense of community involvement and a vision that aligns with personal values.
- Diverse and inclusive culture representative at all levels of the organization.
There are however, other areas that strike a chord with today’s youth that organizations should be aware of and start to think about just as strategically as they do their DEI and Flex programs. And these elements of culture don’t require a large investment; they focus instead on daily interactions and an overall way of valuing people and relating to them that simply make people feel good. Because let’s face it, we spend a large percentage of time working so we deserve to feel good while we are at it.
Creating ‘Feel Good’ Moments
When we create ‘feel good’ moments at work for employees we also generate good will, which can go a long way toward resolving issues when things aren’t so good. Managers will make mistakes, projects will go sideways, colleagues will behave badly but when the workplace is overall a ‘great place’ for people and where people feel truly valued, there is a level of resilience that helps mitigate the consequences when stuff happens and allows you to thwart disaster.
Many young workers entering your workplace will have just joined the workforce after completing their schooling or are re-entering after completing postgraduate studies. A warm and thoughtful welcome can go a long way toward making them feel wanted, safe, and secure. At the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth, 97% of employees agree, “When you join the organization, you are made to feel welcome.” Here are some ideas to get started:
Send welcome packages well before their start date. Include company swag as well as something special for the new employee like a dinner certificate to help them celebrate their new job.
Invite new employees to events being held before their official start date. This sends the message they are part of the team from day one.
Provide access to some, or all, of your intranet so they can get a feel for how you communicate and share information.
Get creative with your actual orientation program. Some companies play ‘Two Truths and a Lie” with their new employees, others decorate their desk, some make their new employees walk a runway to fanfare, and many choose to host a team lunch on the first day. Whatever you do, make sure it fits your culture and the new employee’s comfort level.
Remember to pay attention to equity in the welcoming process. Not all welcomes have to be the same, however they should all convey the same message and ensure that everyone feels equally welcomed regardless of the position they hold, the type of work they do, or who they are as individuals.
Whatever your specific welcome process looks like, if you pay attention to being warm and inviting from the moment they accept your offer to join the team it will go a long way toward establishing a motivated and engaged employee.
Everyone wants to know they are doing a good job and that their contributions matter. Today’s youth however, expect to hear how they are doing on a very regular basis. They are the social media generation where likes and comments come at them in real time, all the time. A yearly review simply will not cut it with this group. They want and need to know how they are doing as this helps them gauge their progress and effectiveness.
Often thought of as ‘neediness’ this desire for appreciation and feedback in the work setting is more a reflection of their motivation to grow and learn new skills than it is of their feeling insecure and needing affirmation. Providing appreciative comments and feedback will only improve your relationships and at the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth, 94% of employees agree, “My manager shows appreciation for good work and extra effort.” Here are some tips for recognizing and appreciating your young workers:
- Provide ‘progress feedback’ that communicates how well they are doing. These quick check-ins confirm you are happy with their work and they maintain momentum and motivation.
- Use the latest technology and digital tools to help facilitate real time feedback as well as conduct pulse surveys to catch issues before they become problems.
- Gamify your recognition programs to create a fun and lively experience.
- Get personal and use blog posts to feature individuals and work with them to showcase their skills, achievements and aspirations.
Remember to be sincere and authentic. Today’s youth are savvy and they question everything so when you say thank-you, provide praise, and otherwise show your appreciation, do it with integrity and purpose and not out of a sense of obligation. This may not come naturally at first, but as you practice you might find it becomes a pleasant habit that transcends all of your interactions.
Be Open to Ideas
Young people are full of ideas. Past generations have been more closed and less inclined to shake things up whereas today’s youth see opportunity for change everywhere they look. They question everything, and against the backdrop of social unrest, the pandemic and climate change they have honed skills necessary to adapt and revise and keep moving forward.
As leaders this means being open to new ideas, seeking suggestions, and responding to ideas in a positive and progressive manner. At the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth, 94% of employees agree, “My manager genuinely seeks and responds to suggestions and ideas.” And 92% agree, “People here quickly adapt to changes needed for our organization’s success.”
Another characteristic of today’s youth is that their desire to try new things outweighs their fear of failure. They know that not everything they try will be successful but they are persistent and know that from mistakes come successes. They thrive in environments that tolerate mistakes and understand their importance to overall improvement. At the Best Workplaces for Today’s Youth, 95% of employees agree, “My manager recognizes honest mistakes as part of doing business.” And 90% agree, “We celebrate people who try new and better ways of doing things, regardless of the outcome.” To help establish this attitude in your culture consider the following:
- Create an environment and systems that allow employees to bring their ideas forward, fail fast and then learn from that failure.
- Adopt continuous feedback as discussed in the ‘Be Appreciative’ section.
- Encourage collaboration amongst peers as young workers are motivated by bouncing ideas off of each other and creating momentum for change.
- Recognize the value that diversity brings to teamwork and new idea generation. Today’s youth are keenly aware that bringing together people from a wide range of backgrounds and experiences are key to success.
Being open to ideas, being appreciative and being welcoming are key ways you show your people you value them. When you signal that your people have value you create a level of trust and respect that will serve you well in all aspects of the workplace. Today’s youth know their value and organizations will succeed by recognizing the value they bring and embracing the changes that are inevitable.
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