There are an estimated 14 million and 24.5 million young South Africans who belong to the so-called millennial and Gen Z generation respectively. These demographic cohorts are the most educated and culturally diverse of any generation before them, but employing them comes with challenges – and that’s more true today than ever. Raised while multi-tasking on life’s super-technology highway, millennials and Gen Zs (or zoomers, as they’re colloquially known) are notorious job-hoppers who distrust traditional hierarchies. So, what’s an employer to do? How do you motivate these rising groups, keep them engaged, earn their trust and get the most out of them? With Youth Day just around the corner on 16 June, we thought we’d share our top 3 principles for motivating today’s young workforce.
Principle #1: Flexibility
Unlike the cash-strapped previous generations, whose main concern for a career change was money, the number-one thing that millennials and Gen Zs want from work is flexibility. That’s why savvy companies are changing human resources policies to cater to the population that makes up the largest percentage of the workforce – think perks that speak to those looking for a respite from the always-on culture of the digital age, like working from home, flexible work policies and remote jobs. Research has shown that benefits and inclusivity help retain young employees more than superficial perks, while even LinkedIn has found that strong benefit offerings like flexible work schedules, paid time off and parental leave are associated with employees staying at companies past the five-year mark. Think about it: Millennials and Gen Zs were the first generations to be raised with a steady access to modern technology, so the office isn’t the only place that they’re productive and successful – and they want to take advantage of that to better their balance work and home life. In a nutshell, if you promote flexibility, along with autonomy and trust to create a culture of employee-centric benefits, you’ll attract and nurture top talent.
Principle #2: Purpose and responsibility
Millennials and Gen Zs know that in order to survive and thrive in the next decade, they need to start at the core: purpose at work. Let’s be clear – because careers are about more than just paying the bills to the young workforce, they don’t want a nine to five; they want a purpose. Their parents’ workplace ideals may have been to ‘settle’ or ‘settle down’, but they’ve created their own standards. The ethics of the work that millennials and Gen Zs are doing and how it contributes to the world are hugely important to them. In other words, they want to feel valued in what they do, and that they are creating value. A purpose-driven company fosters personal development for its employees, and has a stated and measured reason and mission for its being. This means working for a company with a purpose and values that young employees can connect with; where they can be inspired and feel like they belong. Don’t let them hit dead ends – set out clear paths so they know where they’re going and understand where their role fits into the bigger picture. Then step back, give responsibility and trust them to do their job well. Developing in-between titles can help meet their desire for career progression.
Principle #3: Encouragement and regular feedback
We’re all aware of the power of recognition and reward. People need to know they’re being noticed and employees want to know when they’re doing well, especially millennials and Gen Zs who respond particularly well to encouragement and immediate feedback. However, ‘motivation’ seems to be one of those buzz words we hear a lot, but often don’t think about what it is or what it means. Make it clear from the beginning that you promote a culture where team members know the work they do is appreciated and that you reward good work. A simple “congratulations”, “thank you” or honest feedback can make all the difference, helping millennials and Gen Zs to see their contributions to the success of their team and the company overall. Keeping an open line of communication also lets them know how they’re doing and how they can improve. This can lead not only to a more enjoyable work atmosphere, but also to increased productivity which allows an organisation to achieve higher levels of output. Not to mention that turnover rates are significantly lower when motivation is high. Win-win!
In conclusion, millennials and Gen Zs can be inspired, motivated and productive. Today’s young workforce is the most knowledgeable and adaptive group ever – you have nothing to lose and everything to gain. In the wise words of Nelson Mandela, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow.” Happy Youth Month!