Understanding how to Get the Most from Gen Z in the Workplace.
If you want to get a Boomer to do something – Tell them to do it!
If you want to get a Gen Z to do something – Give them a bonus!
If you want to get a millennial to do something – Take a picture of them doing it and post it to Instagram.
If you want to get a Gen Z to do something – Tell their mother it needs to be done and she will do it!
As sad as it is, people are still trying to figure out how to get Gen Z motivated to work. Here is the thing, it is not really all that hard you just have to understand where they are coming from and work to meet their greatest need. This means we need to go back to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and seek to understand what underlying motivators are necessary to engage for most Gen Z. Bear with me for a minute as I review Maslow’s work on motivation.
Abraham Maslow first introduced the concept of a hierarchy of needs in his 1943 paper, titled “A Theory of Human Motivation,” and again in his book, “Motivation and Personality.” In both of these works he highlights the hierarchy of needs that humans live on. Starting with Physiological needs which means air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing and reproduction. Following this is safety which is personal security, employment, resources and health. After this Love and Belonging fall in the middle, looking for friendship, intimacy, family and a sense of connection. Followed by Esteem, respect, self-esteem, status, recognition, strength and freedom. Then finally on top is self-actualization which is the desire to become the most one can be.
It has been proven year after year that humans will naturally aspire to meet all of these needs and that most often they come in this specific order of highest priority bottom up. Generationally most people will fall into similar categories around human wants and needs. There are always outliers, however at mass this is on par.
In my conversations with people of various generations, I have noticed a continual theme, they all seem to want to leave things better for the generation that follows them.
While Physiological needs are fairly attainable for most in 2022, this has not always been the case. Baby Boomers were born right around World War 2 when finances were tight and the whole world was trying to rebuild their economies, Physiological needs were not always being met. Shelter, sleep, clean air, healthy food, reproduction … It’s called the baby boom for a reason. Not all physiological needs were being met and that shaped the way that this generation participated in the workplace. They craved consistency throughout their careers and still do! Perhaps exploring a career or two, job hopping was not even a consideration!
Generation X – the latch key kids. This generation was the first to deal with two incomes in the home so both mom and dad were working, when they came home from school they often let themselves into the house with a key many wore around their neck or pulled out of the hide a key at the side door. While they grew up in homes with greater prosperity thereby having their physiological needs met. They lacked the safety of having a parent at home to receive them and often felt like they lacked love and belonging that prior generations had enjoyed. They were alone and pushing for a sense of connection with family and loved ones.
Next come Millennials who were raised by Boomers and Gen X. Receiving participation trophies followed by college degrees, Millennials received an overload of love and belonging, as their parents tried to overcome the perceived failings of previous generations. Attempts to increase community connectedness led to an explosion in local and travel sports teams and after school programs to meet these Love and Belonging Needs. Their connections to schools, teams and putting a major strain on family time.
That brings us the Gen Z. With the bottom three rings being met beneath them, Gen Z is seeking esteem and self-actualization. Craving respect, recognition, freedom, status and to be the most they can possibly be.
But, what does that mean in the workplace?
As Gen Z’s continue to finish education and enter their careers it is going to be incredibly important that we take intentional action on managing them well and helping them get what they are craving. By adapting to the new need for amplified affirmation they also feel the need to be respected.
Yes, we should continue to embrace flexibility and encourage them by supporting and proudly proclaiming their successes. However, it is important that leaders continue to listen, learn and value them for what they currently have to offer. Not checking the box of giving a gold star, but rather mentoring and coaching them. Taking interest in their lives thus showing respect for their production as employees but also who they are as human beings.
Gen Z craves to be the best version of themselves. They want to be mentored and coached, to be given guidance and direction. They want the opportunity to try multiple different jobs in the same career, the same week or same day!
At mass Gen Z has their physiological needs, safety needs as well as love and belonging needs met. What they are looking for is to satisfy their esteem and reach self actualization, and they want to do it through you! But will you be ready to help them get there?