Tip of the Week – Appreciating and Appealing To a Newer, Younger, Forward-Thinking Generation of Workers

Millennials and Gen Z workers are scrappy survivors, more than capable of keeping their heads above water despite bleak economic undercurrents and global health riptides. The Deloitte Global Millennial Survey 2020 found that workers from these two demographics managed to cope admirably with the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, finding opportunity in the darkness to push for and lead positive changes in multiple societal spheres. Since the beginning of the pandemic, millennials and Gen Zers who’ve switched to remote working displayed a 75% increase in engagement with their work – far removed from the spoilt and lazy brats they appear to be in the eyes of older generations!

Besides having proven their doubters wrong, these demographics also form the largest population in the workforce now. The continued survival and sustainability of companies will depend strongly on their ability to attract and retain millennials and Gen Z workers.

Understand Their Motivations

A lack of desire to understand what makes millennials and Gen Zers tick could prove to be financially costly for companies. In the US, the high employee turnover rate of millennials cost the economy US$30.5 billion per year. The motivations that drive these two generations aren’t difficult to understand. According to Deloitte, climate change is the biggest concern held by millennials and Gen Zers. The detrimental effects of rampant industrialization and pollution are their lived experiences, which will deteriorate greatly in the long run if no mitigating actions are taken. While there has been a renewed optimism after seeing the clear skies and waters that resulted from the pandemic-related reduction in global activity, the members of these generations aren’t resting on their laurels. Two-thirds of millennials and Gen Zers have taken active steps to improve the state of the planet – by taking public transport, turning vegetarian or vegan, and cutting back on single-use plastics, amongst others.

The deference to hierarchy and blind respect for elders that might have been prevalent in previous generations are notably absent in a large part of the millennials and Gen Z populations. The members of these demographics will no longer accept doing things unquestioningly just because “that’s the way bosses want it done” or “that’s just the way things are”. This attitude is reflected in their approach to issues such as income inequality, sexual harassment, and racial discrimination – we’ve seen it displayed in the geneses of the #metoo and Black Lives Matter movements. When circumstances don’t align with their personal values, millennials and Gen Zers are unafraid to express their dislike in tangible ways, such as walking away from jobs with environments and practices that they find toxic.

Unpack What’s Uncomfortable

Members of the younger generations are not only willing to fight back, they’re also very inclined to open themselves up to new ideas and ways of thinking. 70% of millennials and Gen Zers reported participating in volunteer work and other service-oriented endeavours after the pandemic exposed their minds to both new and existing issues. This enthusiasm to embrace change runs counter to the resistance displayed by older generations in the face of transitions and revolutions, giving rise to inter-generational conflict when it comes to issues such as mental health, gender inequality and racial discrimination. When this divide is ingrained into the operations of a company, younger workers will start walking away in search of greener pastures.

It’s important to note that millennials and Gen Zers are not only looking for tolerance, but acceptance. Instead of dismissing their dissent as unrealistic or idealistic, older generations can use conflict as an opportunity to unpack their biases and question their discomfort at the shift in attitudes. Often, the things we’re uncomfortable with changing are the very things that are detrimental to us!

Take work-life balance for example. The desire for more equilibrium between professional and personal spheres amongst millennials and Gen Zers didn’t arise out of collective laziness. These generations have seen the negative effects on their parents’ physical and mental health that working unreasonable hours for poor compensation can have. In general, millennials and Gen Zers are better-educated than previous generations – it would be remiss of the latter population to expect their younger counterparts to ignore the rationality and social intelligence they’ve developed and turn a blind eye to issues that have widespread adverse consequences.

Create A Conducive and Welcoming Work Environment

Companies have to take tangible steps to address the high employment turnover rate amongst millennials and Gen Zers, or risk becoming irrelevant and unsustainable in the long run. A competitive package of employee benefits is a good stepping stone to acknowledge concerns about work-life balance and actively address them. Many businesses are already providing employee perks such as free or subsidised gym memberships, health insurance, along with additional benefits such as five free therapy sessions for those who need professional help to cope with high levels of stress. Additionally, consider conducting training sessions on topics that can help shape a workplace that’s more trauma-informed and oriented towards social equality and cohesion.

Efforts to appeal to millennials and Gen Z employees should also extend to the physical workspace. According to Entrepreneur, these generations prefer flexibility and mobility over being stuck at their desks, resulting in a shift towards open-plan office spaces that allow for as much natural light as possible. It’s also important to integrate technology into the design of an office, while keeping in mind the rapid pace at which technology develops. ‘Corporate’ colours such as blue and grey on walls have fallen out of fashion – brighter, livelier and contrasting colours greatly help business premises stand out.

Much like the current state of the world, the list of things to consider when trying to appeal to millennials and Gen Z workers is constantly changing and non-exhaustive. For both generations, people matter far more than industry and money. It would be wise for businesses to similarly shift their approach, or risk losing their relevance in the not-so-far future.

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