How to engage your Gen Z employees

Generation Z is different than any generation before it, but they’re some of the best team members if you know how to engage them. Navaneet Mishra, leader of the Hexagon Capability Center India, offers some best practices for interacting with and motivating Gen Z.

Every generation has its own approach to work. A new generation of employees means different methods and behaviors to incorporate into your team’s dynamics. That has never been truer than for Generation Z.

Understanding Generation Z in the workplace

Whenever I talk to Gen Z employees, I realise I still have so much to learn.

I think about how I approached the workplace in the early days of my career. I read every email or memo sent by my manager and my organisation. I cherished my manager’s appreciation for my work. I looked forward to year-end ratings on my performance.

Gen Z does not operate like this. They don’t rely on reading email or memos for information. They hate year-end reviews and don’t necessarily seek out affirmation from their managers. They covet appreciation from their peers.

The way to interact and motivate Gen Z employees is completely different than any generation before. It involves peer-based and more “horizontal” communication than “vertical.” That means we need different means of communication to engage with Gen Z effectively.

Innovating for better engagement

That doesn’t mean we have to change all our methods immediately. I won’t deny we still send out email and memos. However, there are policy changes and new guidelines to follow.

And we don’t stop there. If we’re going to integrate Gen Z into our teams, we need to be willing to go above and beyond.

Instead of just sending a memo, our team has seen great success when adding a chatbot feature that can be accessed anytime. Gen Z will only ask about a policy change once they are ready to consume it, so a chatbot makes sense to answer their questions – when it’s convenient for their schedules. We have also provided access to a peer appreciation platform that allows “thumbs up” engagement between friends and colleagues. The social media environment has merged with much of workplace culture, so the more interaction with peers, the better.

It’s the same for events or drives we’re publicising. Even if it’s about a vaccination effort for our employee base, we need to publicise that on Yammer or create separate Teams groups for clarity.

The point is, don’t try to reach Gen Z through the usual communication routes. Innovate, adapt and move quickly, and you will see results.

Gen Z’s remarkable leadership

Many people don’t realise that Gen Z is very capable of leading irrespective of their age. But the subject on which they lead must be of interest to them. This is something I recently learned myself. I’ll give an example.

For our D&I initiative, we handed Gen Z the reins for how to best approach inclusivity goals for all geographies of India, a very large and complex country with many cultures. Gen Z led our brainstorming sessions and decided one of the best ways to learn and appreciate cultures was through celebrations. If we used festivals as a starting point for D&I learning, we would gain engagement.

Accordingly, we planned to share information about all the festivals that happened throughout India in a given month. People could teach others or share a video. Sometimes we would offer quizzes and give awards to the winners.

All of this was thanks to Gen Z employees. They have amazing ideas, questions and stories to share. And this kind of passion really motivated the rest of the team. We even had some employees travel to their own villages, capture some video footage and tell their own stories based on these initiatives.

Gen Z’s secret weapon and reverse mentoring

Gen Z is independent, self-sufficient and engaging. They are not afraid of new things or ideas. I look back at my early years as an employee, and so much of it was characterised by fear of how I would be evaluated.

Gen Z is not afraid of that. They may have been part of an organisation for less than a year, but they’ll still be willing to try something new.

Gen Z has much to teach their colleagues. Many people scoff at this idea. However, I’m lucky enough to work with a leadership team that appreciates the value in reverse mentoring by our Gen Z employees. We’re still developing the details on how to make that happen, but we’ll soon be implementing reverse mentoring in our ongoing processes and procedures. We believe it’s important because only when we are in learning mode from Gen Z can we solve today’s most important problems.

Everybody has a different way they like to engage. We must learn how to work with each generation clearly. In that way, Gen Z is no different. Our goal is to engage with them, to give them what they need to be productive and allow them to contribute to our work. When we do that, the sky is the limit.

Navaneet Mishra

Navaneet leads Hexagon Capability Center India (HCCI), formerly known as Intergraph and has guided the center to become Hexagon's single largest R&D hub. With more than 1850 professionals and growing, HCCI drives various core Product lines and Technology Solutions across all Hexagon BUs. Prior to this, Navaneet served as the Vice President for Globalization Services at SAP Labs India, Bangalore. He was responsible for teams across multiple continents looking after the localization of Logistics and Manufacturing Industries products across 40+ countries worldwide. During this time, Gartner and several leading dailies have featured his views on IT products for India/from India.