Believe it or not, most Gen Z employees want to return to the office. In fact, 40% of college students and recent graduates prefer fully in-person work—which is especially shocking when compared to research that shows only 12% of all office workers want to go back to the office full time.
However, it’s less surprising when you consider that young people are feeling more and more disconnected from work and school since the onset of the pandemic. While flexible work arrangements introduce myriad benefits—from better work-life balance to improved retention—they can also limit opportunities for team building, networking, and professional development, which are all vital to career growth.
Hybrid work has also been linked to increased productivity—but not all young or inexperienced workers agree. In a PwC survey, 34% of respondents with less than five years of work experience said they feel less productive while working remotely compared with 23% of all survey respondents.
This data is alarming especially as more organizations adopt hybrid work policies, because Gen Z workers are the future of the workforce. Without adequate support, organizations risk losing their young employees to competitors. Clearly, it’s time for business leaders to step up and help young employees feel more included and engaged.
4 steps to engage and support young employees
Disengaged and uninspired employees are unable to produce their best work, and they’re prone to leaving your organization. That’s why you need to ensure your young employees stay connected to their work and teammates even when they work remotely.
Here are several steps you can take to better support young employees so they don’t feel left behind.
Start engaging new hires before their first day. Set the tone for a new hire’s tenure at your organization by bringing them into the team right away. For example, open a line of communication (and not just for administrative requests) after a new hire signs their offer letter. From there, you can send them a short questionnaire asking for information about their favorite things (e.g., snacks, hobbies, books).
On their first day, you can provide the new hire with some of those items either at the office or in a care package. This not only generates enthusiasm, but creates a channel of communication for new hires to ask questions before they officially start. By initiating personalized engagement before day one and continuing it throughout the employee’s journey, you can ensure young workers experience meaningful connections at every stage of their careers.
Focus on your managers. Managers are your secret weapon to keeping your people engaged and inspired. However, you can’t assume your managers know how to energize their teams, so it’s important to give them training and a safe space to ask for help. Continually reinforce the idea that taking care of their people is your managers’ top priority. For remote and hybrid workers, the role of a manager is even more critical.
Don’t forget that there might be a generational disconnect between managers and their reports, so you need to ensure employees have the resources, technology, and strategies they need to effectively work together. Managers need to be more creative, thoughtful, and intentional in how they engage with their employees. This is the manager’s role, but HR needs to encourage and coach leaders on best practices for engaging with high impact.
Encourage workers to build relationships. Human connections are critical to an employee’s success and happiness at work, especially for young employees who are remote or hybrid workers and may feel lonely. You can help cultivate connections and interactions by organizing employee outings or mentorship programs. Create events that draw people together in compelling ways and offer young employees more access to business leaders. At Enboarder, we hold high-impact weeks featuring enticing events in our various offices. For example, we recently participated in a community cleanup of a lake near our headquarters in Austin. Employees who volunteered to participate used kayaks to clear trash and debris from the lake and shoreline. It was a great opportunity to encourage friendships and bring together employees with common interests who wouldn’t necessarily connect during normal business activities. Networking and building workplace relationships can help set young employees up for success not only at your organization but throughout their careers.
Offer more engaging learning and development (L&D) opportunities. Gen Z workers are early in their careers and eager to learn. By providing training and resources personalized to each individual employee and their journey, you can better engage, motivate, and retain employees. To encourage participation, carve out time in employees’ schedules for L&D. Managers should also spend at least a quarter of each weekly one-on-one discussing the employee’s career development. But they shouldn’t forget to devote the beginning of the one-on-one to getting to know the employee on a more personal level. Invest in employees’ growth and development as a worker and a person and they’ll see your organization as a place where they can thrive long term.
Young and early-career employees may fear they are falling behind their older, more experienced colleagues amid the rise of hybrid and remote work. But you can show these employees how valued they are by investing in them before they even start at your organization. By fostering connections and dedicating time to their career development, you can give young employees a greater sense of purpose and encourage them to bring their best selves to work through every stage of their career.
Brent Pearson is the founder and CEO of Enboarder.