gen z: how to engage your youngest workers.

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Today’s employee mix spans across three or even four generations, ranging from Boomers and X’s to Y’s and Z’s. For employers, this means that engaging a 55-year-old company veteran as opposed to a 20-year-old newcomer requires insight and likely some customization of company offerings or culture.

In our recent study of generational workplace preferences, we partnered with Millennial Branding and asked Gen Y’s (ages 21–32) and Gen Z’s (ages 16–20) a few questions to unveil what motivatesinspires and engages them at work each day. American employers already know quite a bit about Gen Y (they’re very motivated by money, for example), but many organizations are just learning about the incoming workforce, Gen Z.

Let’s look at some highlights to see what we can learn about engaging our youngest workers:

talk with them

  • Both Gen Y’s and Gen Z’s like technology, but when it comes to communicating with managers and co-workers, old-fashioned talking in person wins hands down: Gen Z 53% and Gen Y 51%. 
  • E-mailing is preferred by a smaller group: Gen Z 19% and Gen Y 16%. 
  • Instant messaging rates third, being selected by 10% of Gen Z’s and 13% of Gen Y’s. 

hands-on work and good co-workers help boost their high performance

  • To enable their best performance, a solid majority of both generations place highest priority on the type of work they do, and both show a strong preference for hands-on projects. 
  • Both emphatically say their co-workers affect their performance, and they like co-workers who are willing to work as hard as they do. 
  • Nearly half of Gen Z’s think personalizing their workspace and listening to music/wearing headphones help them work better, while Gen Y’s are influenced by the location of their job site and the size of the work space. 

and guess what hinders their workplace success?

  • STRESS: Both generations name stress as the number-one obstacle likely to impede their work performance. Over half (54%) of Gen Z's express concern with stress compared to 41% of Gen Y's. 
  • Gen Z’s are also concerned about not getting along with their team/manager (48%) or a bad job fit or distractions (45% each). Gen Y thinks money (35%) and not getting along with their team/manager (34%) can impact their performance. 
  • Interesting note: More Gen Z’s (23%) than Y’s (14%) say depression could get in the way of their work performance. 

what is the best way to interact with them?

  • Gen Z’s clearly want managers to mentor them and provide feedback.
  • Gen Y’s on the other hand prefer to be left alone, with a majority saying their managers can best engage with them by allowing them to work independently. 
  • However, both generations want to be heard and have their opinions valued, and nearly the same amount want their work to be meaningful.

what about distractions?

When it comes to technology as a workplace distraction, the generations show some differences:

  • Gen Z’s top technology distractions: Facebook, Instant messaging, Email
  • Gen Y’s top technology distractions: Email, Facebook, Instant messaging

for inspiration, they want good work

  • Almost half (48%) of Gen Z’s say the work they do inspires their creativity, and approximately one-third (37%) of Gen Y’s feel the same. 
  • It’s notable that only 17% of Gen Z’s say they are naturally creative and only 8% of Gen Y’s say the same.

in leaders, they want honesty

Honesty rules and is the number-one attribute both generations want from their leaders.


Armed with this well-rounded picture of the two generations, American employers can assess how well their environments are poised to engage their youngest workers.

To help translate the data above, we've assembled a list of actionable tips every organization can take to bolster their Gen Y and Z engagement efforts. 

learn more about Gen Y and Gen Z

tips & tricks
We've compiled a tips sheet to help your organization quickly recognize how to engage the best and brightest of Gen Y and Gen Z.

download our tips sheet >

By knowing what drives the upcoming workforce, organizations can shape their talent attraction strategies and be seen as an employer of choice.

how to attract Gen Y and Gen Z >

Retaining talent is key, and keeping Gen Y and Gen Z on the job requires understanding their values and what motivates them.

how to retain your talent >

managing Gen Y and Gen Z
Read about the first nationwide study on Gen Z in the workplace

view the results >

Learn how we conducted our survey. 

get the details here >

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