Introducing the new workforce: Gen Z (aka iGeneration)! By the year 2020, this youngest generation of workers, Gen Z employees, will account for 20 percent of the workforce. Born during or after 1995, the eldest are 23 years old and are already working side-by-side with four other generations: millennials (Gen Y), Gen X, baby boomers and the silent generation. The oldest millennials are 38 years old, so Gen Z has multigenerational leaders, challenging your organization to develop effective and productive communication systems, leadership skills, and training and development programs.
Every generation has different perspectives about employment and careers, so it’s time for you to dive into understanding Gen Z employees in order to maintain successful HR practices that engage the whole workforce.
Just when you’ve finally learned how to successfully engage millennials, along comes Gen Z. As the first digital-native generation, millennials have driven significant changes in the workplace, from workplace design to embracing social responsibility. Gen Z employees are entering the workforce as employees who are even more comfortable with technology, but their perspective on and experience with technology tools are much different from earlier generations.
A Deloitte study created an informative picture of these young people. Gen Z is skilled with technology. Unlike millennials, they grew up moving rapidly across a variety of technologies — smartphones, tablets and laptops — and social media programs – Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, etc. They are entering their careers at higher levels as most “typical” entry-level work is now automated.
Gen Z is very concerned about their ability to communicate and forge strong interpersonal relationships. This may be due to the fact that technology has negatively impacted their cognitive skill development, and they recognize that their social skills, like critical thinking and communication, are weak.
Gen Z absorbs information in small bites and is visually oriented. This has implications for your training and communication systems. Learning programs that deliver information in easily digested, intuitive modules are attractive to Gen Z employees. Adding soft skills development, such as problem-solving and leadership skills, to training and development can close technology-created gaps in communication skills. This begins with your onboarding program, which should initiate the education process for developing cognitive and communication skills — and continue through all your training programs.
You should use mixed training media that is visually stimulating, easy to access and use, flexible and available 24/7. Providing mobile access is critical to successful Gen Z training, and enables you to deliver continuous learning opportunities. Your managers will also need to hold in-person meetings to supplement the technology-based training and encourage Gen Zers to collaborate on designing work environments that enable people to work as teams, in person or through collaborative technologies.
Gen Z employees also value diversity and are attracted to employers who have similar values and will provide learning and experiential opportunities to work with people who have diverse backgrounds, origins and preferences. In this regard, they are quite similar to younger millennials. The Ernst & Young survey of Gen Z interns found that they prefer millennial managers over Gen X or Baby Boomer managers, likely because some of their perspectives intersect. Since it’s estimated that millennials and Gen Z employees will make up approximately 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025, this will become a fact of life anyway.
Your leaders need skills that enable them to create a cohesive, collaborative workforce within the context of a culture that embraces diversity and innovation. Could anything seem more challenging from an HR perspective?
Managing and motivating a four- or even five-generation workforce that is growing younger and older at the same time requires leaders who can build respect and trust among them. With top-down support, it’s the front-line leaders who maintain a positive corporate culture and engage employees. You want to develop leaders who can identify and promote shared values across the generations, creating a bond. A good leader is accessible, helps each employee understand the importance of their role, holds people accountable, challenges employees to perform at their highest level and meets their unique needs. An effective leader understands generational differences and leverages that knowledge to engage employees.
For example, baby boomers prefer face-to-face communication and Gen Z needs to develop interpersonal communication skills. Millennials and Gen Z are deeply interested in working for organizations that are socially responsible. Millennials use social media to collaborate. Gen Z employees are natural collaborators and use social media to facilitate real world connections. Both baby boomers and Gen Z desire face-to-face meeting opportunities.
Do your leaders develop mixed-age collaborative teams? Are younger and older workers given opportunities to interact with knowledge sharing from both directions? Do your managers know how to leverage the differing generational motivations to engage all employees? Do your leaders understand the importance of personalized communication skills? Do they have inclusive skills that strengthen employee engagement among all employee generations? These are the kinds of questions you should be asking about your organization’s leadership skills now to develop positive employee relations in a multigenerational workforce.
Finding common ground to bring people together based on their preferences and needs in a productive manner promotes cohesiveness and creates a foundation for leading a multigenerational team. You can develop customized employee videos, web training and eLearning programs that deliver information in a desired format and leadership training programs that address connecting with and managing a multigenerational workforce.
A multigenerational workforce will be a fact of life for decades to come. Consider this: In 16 years, the oldest of Gen Alpha, the next generation, will be 21 years old and entering the workforce. Learning how to connect with a multigenerational workforce now will prepare your organization to engage all employees well into the future.
Branham’s research shows that a negative company culture is the main reason why employees look elsewhere for work. The best way to combat this is to work toward fostering positive employee relations and a better working environment.
Start by developing a retention plan. Consider the main factors that contribute to employees leaving and look at what you can do to prevent it from happening. Also, find out why your workers were attracted to the job in the first place, as this might well be the thing that is keeping them there and you could use this information to attract future employees.
Another factor to consider is training opportunities. The chance to develop new skills, achieve goals and acquire a solid understanding of job requirements gives workers a sense of value. So, opportunities for personal growth mustn’t be overlooked.
And while loyalty to a company has long ago become a thing of the past, many of today’s younger top performers do consider corporate social responsibility a major factor in job satisfaction. Millennials want to have pride in their employer, and not only paying attention to your reputation but promoting the company’s values can help retain these workers.
Employee engagement is a persistent problem for organizations around the world for many reasons. They include increasing use of remote workers, technology that makes interpersonal communication less personal, generational differences in work expectations and communication styles, the inability to clearly separate work and personal lives, poor leadership skills and employees feeling undervalued.
Engagement exists when empowered employees feel connected to their work and the organization, but each person in your organization experiences engagement in a different way. For this reason, developing high engagement levels begins with developing an organizational “social mindset” in which a sense of community is created. Unions have mastered this concept, making their members feel like they’re in an exclusive club with leaders who really listen, and will champion their causes and go to bat for them when issues arise. Unions regularly communicate with their members, using social media tools and personal meetings, to keep the connection strong and inspire feelings of empowerment. The union social mindset is a bond that unites everyone around a common cause.
Social factors are important to all employees but especially to millennials. They’re always connected via social media, but social media by itself isn’t guaranteed to engage people or promote optimal communication. Too many employers miss the link between a social mindset and engagement. Social media is an engagement tool, but if your organization doesn’t develop a social mindset, your employees won’t utilize the social tools to their greatest advantage. Your employees’ behaviors are indicative of a lack of social mindset. For example, low utilization of an enterprise-wide social media system or lack of response to a manager’s feedback on a project in progress or failure to participate on coworker teams, are a few indications that your employees don’t view themselves as important contributors to a cohesive team of workers.
An organization with a social mindset focuses on its people and is key to creating a culture of inclusion in which people thrive. Creating an organization with a social mindset requires giving people the right tools, but the tools must empower people to learn what they need and want to learn to achieve the highest performance level and to learn when they want to learn. It must be a collaborative learning journey in which people learn from each other, and have access to on-demand learning and access to internal and external communities that enable continuous learning. A social mindset means employees utilize all online and offline social systems to autonomously manage their jobs with a clear understanding of how their work contributes to organizational goals. They see themselves as proactive team members doing important work.
Engagement actually emanates from the ability of employees to self-empower. Your organization is unique from all others. It’s why you’ve achieved competitive success. The uniqueness drives the need for the development of an internal communication system that specifically resonates with your employees. The communication system consists of tools that are available to the entire workforce; consistent, tailored messaging; regular management feedback; and leaders with effective communication skills. Engaging your workforce in a meaningful way also requires providing content that adds value to their work and is easily understood.
Millennials prefer information delivered quickly and with visual aids, and user-friendly communication platforms that include video, web, and eLearning communication tools. Of course, mobile platforms are a necessity in the eyes of your younger employees. This creates the seamless communication system that accommodates the ‘where and when’ learning and communication needs. Engaging employees requires you to encourage all people to participate in the business, including remote workers, and to provide opportunities for improving processes. Meetings can encourage people to ask questions rather than expecting people to passively learn the material. Technology-based training programs are interactive. Leader feedback encourages stretch thinking. This is how you develop a social learning organization.
Various researchers have determined that employee engagement recognizes an employee’s psychological state, behaviors, and linkages between engagement and employee satisfaction. Satisfaction is not enough though. Engaged employees are committed to the organization’s mission, self-motivated and passionate about their work. Your organization’s communication system is an essential element in the engagement process, but only if it stimulates constructive conversations and positive behaviors.
Southwest Airlines is an example of a company that has created a social mindset. Employees are encouraged to collaborate, participate in decision-making and explore work activities outside their regular jobs. Employees across the organization were encouraged to share new ideas for uniforms, and one of the flight attendants chosen to participate on a final design committee called it an “unforgettable experience.” Southwest Airlines considers social media as a means for relationship building with and between employees and customers because it gives the company the ability to connect people across teams and cultures.
Airbnb creates an employee experience which considers physical, emotional, aspirational, intellectual and virtual (collaborative technologies) aspects. The collaborative technologies are used to communicate the company culture and hold an online live-streamed weekly meeting, and employees are encouraged to use WhatsApp to share learning, photos, and insights. This enables the company to create a social mindset by opening communication up to all employees around the world.
Previously a labor organizer, author Jane McAlevey shared her experiences and perspectives on union organizing in “Raising Expectations (and Raising Hell)” and proposed a union-building operational model in “No Shortcuts: Organizing for Power in the New Gilded Age.” She points out that mobilizing may bring large numbers of people into the battle for employee rights but these are people already committed. To build a strong union, its leaders must expand its base to include ordinary people who were never involved in organizing. They do this by helping ordinary people understand they hold the power and can achieve desired outcomes.
Her basic operating model has several major elements that include: deep organizing in which indifferent people are attracted; full-worker organizing in which all working people are made to understand they are members of a community and have untapped potential; building unity across classes of people; developing organic leaders who create a social force capable of exercising power; and tracking every worker’s participation in the workplace and the community to better engage them in the union learning and development processes.
McAlevey’s model is an engagement model. As an employer, you must understand an engaging communication system in your organization makes it possible for all employees to participate, exercise their power to contribute to organizational success and create a social force. The social mindset encourages people to fully participate in the communication process by providing context.
It’s not a passive system. It proactively embraces the disengaged, drawing them into the community of the already engaged. The communication skills of your leaders are crucial to the development of a social mindset. You want your employees to join your organizational efforts to remain innovative, competitive and successful, instead of joining a union. It’s the path to union proofing your business.
You might think it’s a bit strange for a company who produces professional-quality video for companies to give advice on “do it yourself” video for HR. But employees, especially millennial employees, crave engagement, and HR departments are increasingly expected to communicate regularly with their workforce on both routine and critical issues. Videos can be a great way to communicate with employees and deepen engagement, but, really, should you create your own content? This article will consider the pros and cons of HR departments shooting their own employee communication videos – and you might be surprised!
Do you have an iPhone? Good news, you’re an amateur filmmaker. Gone are the days when you needed to buy dedicated camera equipment. That phone in your pocket can take high-definition video and can usually autocorrect for poor lighting. There are a number of simple things you can do to make those handheld videos look better. Try spending 30 minutes to create consistent lighting conditions throughout your set (or if outside, try to minimize glare from the sun). You can also use multiple iPhones to get different angles. Newer models even shoot video in 4K, though this resolution will consume a great deal of memory. Even these basic techniques can give your videos greater credibility but once you use editing software, the quality of your content improves exponentially.
Many amateur filmmakers use Apple’s iMovie, an incredibly powerful software platform that can make short films look fantastic. The software even allows you to start editing on your iPhone before finishing on a Mac. Once you start using iMovie, it makes sense to upgrade your other equipment to get the most out of the software. A good microphone will help capture high-quality audio, and a proper lighting rig goes a long way to make sure your subjects and set are appropriately lit. You can find royalty-free music on sites such as Premium Beat and Pond unless you intend to create your own. iMovie includes a large suite of editing tools such as time lapses, color correction and special effects. While these tools make your videos look great, it can take many months to fully understand how to use the software to its full potential.
Technology has evolved to the point that with limited skill, you can create a great looking employee video. With a little editing and touch-ups, homemade videos can be distributed throughout your organization. However, mission-critical communications require a professional touch. During periods of heightened tension such as union organizing, layoffs or restructuring, you want to make sure your video surgically communicates the right message to the right audience. You only get one shot in corporate communications, and mistakes can be quickly broadcast on national news and social media. Everyone wants to go viral, but not for the wrong reasons. The good news is that there the team at Projections can provide first-class employee communication videos when the stakes really matter. Projections specializes in labor relations and provides award-winning, highly effective corporate communication tools for onboarding, union organizing campaigns, benefits rollouts, changes (such as facility closings or corporate restructuring), and especially for training and educating your workforce.
A great way to deepen employee engagement is first-class videos, websites and e-learning. Showing your team members that you value their ongoing education is vital for morale and employee retention – not to mention your reputation as an employer of choice. The equipment needed to create quality videos is increasingly affordable, and there are a number of software tools to make your videos look more professional. For routine communications, creating your own videos is probably fine. For critical communications with your broader workforce, such as union avoidance, look to a professional that specializes in corporate communications to ensure your videos are focused enough to convey the right message to the right audience when it really matters.
A motivated, happy workforce doesn’t just benefit your company with increased productivity and better quarterly revenues. Employee engagement also guarantees that you get to retain your best employees, enjoy a higher level of staff loyalty, stave off nascent union organizing and ensure your company remains innovative and competitive going forward.
With that in mind, let’s examine the most common warning signs that suggest your employees aren’t as motivated or engaged as you’d like them to be.
Everyone knows teams or individuals who are content to be “just good enough.” Yes, they’re hitting their targets, but box-ticking metrics aren’t the stuff of great companies. Try to develop a culture that inspires your employees to want to become excellent in everything they do.
Most employees should be fine with taking constructive criticism; ideally, they should be actively seeking it out. Unfortunately, some resist feedback, and this can be a sign of increasing withdrawal, both in the workplace and elsewhere.
Some employees can be overly protective of their own status quo. Not wanting to be blamed for failure, they shun any risk at all.
Regardless of the specific benefits that your company enjoys from good interpersonal relationships among your staff, it is a universal truth that bad employee interactions are always a net detriment to productivity. Having employees who won’t work on maintaining or fixing good relationships is a sure sign of trouble further down the line.
Changes to workplace practices can often trigger a natural and subconscious resistance in employees, which should be predicted and managed as such and even leveraged as a coaching or training opportunity. Regardless, it should only be a temporary reaction and dissolve over time. However, when employees demonstrate a chronic and obstinate desire to stay stuck in their ways, it may be an indicator of other, more serious, underlying issues.
Not dissimilar to the desire to shun risk, a lack of interest in experimentation suggests that your employees have grown bored with their work and encounter a lack of stimulation and curiosity in what they do.
Employees who excuse their own work by finding fault in someone else’s show a lack of accountability. They never learn from their mistakes.
It shouldn’t be a hard sell to get your employees to expand their skill set and make themselves more valuable in the process. If some of your staff are reluctant to engage with workplace training and ignore offers of educational opportunities, you might want to explore it with them further in a bid to address any preexisting concerns.
We know gossip when we hear it, and in the workplace, it’s never a good thing. Not only does it decrease team cohesiveness, damage morale and inculcate a negative atmosphere, it’s also a consistent precursor to the beginnings of union organizing in your firm. Rumors and hearsay can spread false notions and add fuel to the fire that union officials rely on.
If you get that feeling that some of your employees are jealous of others, or that there’s a rift between a department or two borne out of a feeling of inequity, it’s definitely worth investigating. What might appear as a sense of petty injustice can have large ramifications on labor relations further down the line.
And, finally, what could be more indicative of disengagement than your staff not turning up to work in the first place? Fortunately, this is usually one of the last signs to manifest itself, giving you plenty of opportunity to address the problem beforehand.
If you’re witnessing any of these signs of failing employee engagement, it’s not too late! In fact, its testament to your commitment to your teams that you’re aware of their needs. Now is the time to begin connecting, and you can use powerfully consistent video messages, highly interactive eLearning and dedicated websites to create an innovative, engaged workforce.