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Human Resources

Gen Z in the workplace: Neuroscience reveals challenges and strategies to maximise engagement

Health Industry Hub | June 15, 2023 |

Human Resources: Generation Z (Gen Z), the youngest and most technologically savvy generation, has entered the professional world, posing a unique challenge for employers. To effectively engage and understand this generation, employers need to delve into the realm of neuroscience and leverage the insights it offers.

“Attracting and retaining Gen Z talent goes beyond just offering competitive salaries. It requires an investment in great company culture, transparent employee communication, and genuine care for employee mental health,” said neurologist Dr Patrick Aouad, Co-founder of CU Health and appointed faculty member at the University of Sydney.

In fact, a recent report by Employment Hero revealed that a staggering 75% of Gen Z employees now expect their employers to provide mental health support, such as employee assistance programs (EAPs). This statistic underscores the growing importance of prioritizing mental well-being in the workplace.

Furthermore, the report highlighted that 75% of Gen Z workers plan to leave their current jobs within the next two years, with 49% planning to leave within one year. Their intention to switch jobs stems from a desire for roles that offer knowledge expansion and a strong career trajectory. To retain Gen Z talent, employers need to recognise their ambition and drive, providing opportunities for growth and development.

Understanding the neurological factors that shape the Gen Z brain is crucial for creating effective strategies to engage and empower this generation. The ongoing development of their brains influences their behaviors, decision-making, and overall cognitive processes.

According to Dr Aouad, one key factor is the underdeveloped prefrontal cortex, responsible for decision-making and impulse control. In Gen Z individuals, this region is still developing, leading to heightened impulsivity and limited risk assessment capabilities.

Another crucial factor is their digital immersion and the impact it has on the dopamine-reward system in their brains. Growing up in a digital world inundated with highly engaging stimuli, particularly through social media, has rewired their brains to seek instant gratification and led to decreased attention spans.

Additionally, the pandemic and increased reliance on digital interaction have affected Gen Z. Many started their working lives during the pandemic, relying heavily on digital devices for communication. As the world gradually returns to normal, reestablishing face-to-face social interactions may lead to increased activation of the sympathetic nervous system, impacting their social comfort and overall engagement.

In 2023, Gen Z faces external challenges that compound anxiety and impact their wellbeing. Factors such as housing uncertainty for low-income earners, a volatile job market, and rising inflation add to the pressures they experience. This external instability can contribute to anxiety disorders, sleep disturbances, and even depression among those lacking a clear future focus or inherent high performance.

To enhance Gen Z’s engagement and productivity, employers can harness neuroscience in several ways. Cultivating a sense of belonging and a strong company culture is crucial. Mentorship programs, buddy systems, and inclusive initiatives targeted at Gen Z can foster a sense of purpose and belonging. Valuing the contributions of Gen Z employees and moving away from a “do your time” mentality is essential for their engagement and retention.

Employers can also support Gen Z’s financial well-being by offering responsible financial advisory programs and services. Assisting employees in envisioning and planning their future can alleviate anxiety surrounding financial stability, contributing to a stable and motivated workforce.

Creating environments where individuals can safely discuss and share their stressors is vital for fostering psychological safety and open dialogue. Prioritising psychological safety and providing evidence-based services that prevent stress from worsening and enhance resilience in a personalised manner is crucial. By prioritising mental well-being, organisations foster a healthier workforce and create an environment where long-term goals can be pursued.

By embracing the insights provided by neuroscience, employers can unlock the potential of Gen Z employees, fostering their engagement and productivity in the workplace. Understanding the unique neurological characteristics of Gen Z, such as their developing brains, digital immersion, and desire for belonging and inclusion, allows organisations to tailor strategies and initiatives that align with their cognitive preferences and needs.

By prioritising psychological safety, financial wellbeing, and open dialogue, employers create an environment where Gen Z can thrive, contributing to both individual and organizational success. As organizations navigate the challenges of the future, investing in the well-being and potential of Gen Z is not only a strategic move but a moral imperative, ensuring a brighter and more prosperous future for all.

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