How to engage with and motivate young workers in a post-pandemic world

motivate young youngers

As corporate campuses begin to fall from favour, businesses will need to find new ways to attract and retain the best and brightest of Generation Z, writes Jacqueline Anderson, HR Director, Nintex.

Before the coronavirus pandemic began up-ending economies and societies around the world, the campus-style workplace had been strongly positioned as a preferred benefit for the younger generation. Since the 1990s, major organisations have vied with each other to offer more and fancier facilities to their employees.

Managers will need to invest time in understanding what motivates each team member and then look for opportunities to align the individual’s interests with the work that needs to be done.

Google’s Silicon Valley Googleplex, for example, features free laundry rooms, swimming pools, multiple volleyball courts, eighteen cafeterias and a fleet of bicycles to enable employees based at a nearby development facility to shuttle between the two sites.

Facebook’s headquarters boast ball-pit meeting rooms, acres of rooftop gardens, complete with walking trails and tepee swings, a coffee shop, burrito bar, pizza window and a sit-down restaurant.

Here in Australia, we also have our share of organisations which present their workplaces as homes-away-from-home, with video games, free food and permission to bring pets in for the day.

Although presented as a benefit to employees, these facilities and perks have invariably been designed with a couple of purposes: to attract the best and brightest young talent and to make being on campus a preference to being at home. In the main, they succeeded in both aims.

Motivating young employees in a post-COVID climate
And then along came COVID-19. The shutdown restrictions put in place to slow the spread of the virus back in March meant remote working became the norm overnight. Signs increasingly suggest it may remain that way indefinitely, even as the economy continues to reopen. Many companies, particularly those in the high-tech space, have already stated employees can now work from home permanently, should they choose to do so.

On July 1, NAB announced its headquarters in Melbourne’s Docklands would be mothballed indefinitely, to save on utilities and running costs, while employees continued to work remotely. The bank has flagged the fact that its future real estate requirements are likely to be more modest than they were in pre-pandemic times.

That’s a shift that’s likely to be replicated across Australia and around the globe and it begs the question: what will organisations use to create an environment and a benefit program that keeps employees wanting to be a part of it?

It can’t be flexible hours and work life balance because, just like that, the virus has made them a reality for millions of knowledge workers who’ve been asked to carry on from home for the foreseeable future. Many are likely to continue to work remotely, some or all of the time, after the risk posed by COVID-19 recedes.

Providing the workforce of tomorrow with purposeful employment
Given research suggests Gen Z is strongly motivated by personal convictions and what management consultancy McKinsey & Company has dubbed ‘the search for truth’, the answer may lie in providing them with opportunities to undertake work for which they are able to feel a sense of passion and purpose.

As part of that process, companies need to get better at communicating their purposes; using internal marketing and communications to articulate the value they deliver to customers and the community, to existing employees and potential new hires. Every employee needs to know what their company does and how it gives value to its customer.

It can’t be flexible hours and work life balance because, just like that, the virus has made them a reality for millions of knowledge workers who’ve been asked to carry on from home for the foreseeable future.

Managers will need to invest time in understanding what motivates each team member and then look for opportunities to align the individual’s interests with the work that needs to be done. This will have not only the benefit of retention but will also lead to a more engaged workforce.

Those which fail to do so may risk losing top talent to organisations which are able to feed their intrinsic motivation more effectively.

Time to think differently
The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the way organisations operate and altered the way employees think about work and workplaces. As businesses rebuild their operations in the wake of the virus, the challenge will be on to find new ways to engage with and motivate the next generation of Australian workers.

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