Engaging and Motivating Younger Employees Using Technology
The number one challenge for companies in Australia right now is staff attraction and retention. Across the business, news sites are headlines about ‘quiet quitting,’ ‘the great resignation,’ or articles about industrial strikes. The fact of the matter is Covid has changed the world immensely, and unfortunately for companies, it has also widened the talent and skills gaps in their workforce. You only need to see whole industries like hospitality and tourism struggling to keep up service with the heavy influx of returning travelers and people finally out of lockdowns due to staff shortages or a disengaged workforce made up of Gen Z or younger millennials.
In Australia, Gen Z, or millennials, are set to make up 75 percent of the total workforce by 2025. If you are a baby boomer and Gen X business leader, this will be quite a challenge, particularly if you do not understand what is important to your younger colleagues. When it comes to engaging and motivating younger employers, it is very easy to jump to the conclusion that technology is going to fix the problem. Unfortunately, this is far from the truth, and it is about more fundamental things.
A lot of research will tell us that younger employers have a much higher expectation of an employee’s well-being, that the organization’s leadership is ethical, and that the organization is diverse and inclusive of all people. So, it is less about the latest technology and more about people. What may or may not be surprising is that the very youngest group Gen Z, is actually very hard-working and ambitious to the point that you will probably find that they have side-hustle businesses in addition to their day job. Interestingly, Gen Z is also less interested in office collaboration compared to their millennial counterparts and loves being tasked with a challenge that they can drive themselves without distraction. So, if your company has a mix of Gen Z and millennials, please do not bundle them together!
Younger employees in the workforce are really taking advantage of this moment in time and catching employers off guard. Their long list of expectations on salary, titles, rewards, and working environments exceeds what most companies are capable or willing to deliver. Even when companies are making large layoffs of staff, other companies snap them up in a matter of hours. It is brutally competitive in the market for talent right now and will continue to be the case for the foreseeable future.
Over the last couple of years, I have seen a sharp increase in new behaviors, which for a lot of leaders Gen X and Baby boomers would find quite disrespectful. For example, the ‘boomerang employee,’ whereby a candidate accepts a job then days before their start date, sends a text advising that their existing employer decided to give them a pay rise, so they do not need the job anymore. Quite frustrating for my hiring managers, who have gone through the recruitment process and have burnt a whole cohort of potential and must now start the process again.
‘Quiet quitting’ is also making headlines, and it is where younger employees have been posting online videos of them ignoring after-hours messages from their boss or, at 5:01pm, disconnecting from Slack. Some people are even posting how they are working from home doing everything other than work, suggesting that they have quit without their bosses knowing. It is pretty bad form, but realistically- it comes down to ineffective management and a disengaged employee. As a leader, you should have the tools to measure the engagement and a strong enough connection with your employee that your employee trusts you well enough to share any concerns with you. As a leader, this is your responsibility, even if it is the employee who is deciding to disengage.
Your technology systems and platforms should be an extension of the relationships and positive working environment that you have designed and not just a tool to ‘fix’ disengagement
So how do we better engage and motivate younger employees using technology? Well, to start with, make sure you get the basics right, and for Gen Z and millennials, it comes down to respecting and treating them as equals. If you are a leader in your organization, talking to them like subordinates or hiding information from them will only lead to distrust and disengagement. So, if you decide to utilize technology to facilitate productivity, communication, and engagement, make sure you give your younger employees a voice and focus on transparency. If you are considering technology to measure and track engagement, be clear on your definition of success and make sure it aligns with the values of both your company and your employees, including your younger staff. Your technology systems and platforms should be an extension of the relationships and positive working environment that you have designed and not just a tool to ‘fix’ disengagement.
Organizations are only now understanding how many more dimensions employees measure the companies they work for. If you want to be an employer of choice, start by listening to your workforce, then act. In the same way, you would use the voice of customer feedback to drive decision-making, your voice of employee data should drive your decisions. It is a great opportunity for people leaders to consider technology to scale their engagement and be better at collecting feedback and data and even using predictive modeling to further enhance their engagement capability.
If you are serious about change and recognize the importance of creating strong working relationships with your younger employees. It is time to acquire a Bluetooth connection with them because until you have a connection, there is not much you can do or say, they will always be disconnected. Your younger employees have high standards, and the days of expecting your staff to just do their job because you pay them are long gone, and if you do not put in the effort, neither will they.