Management and keeping talent engaged

Meaningful work is craved for by the next generation of talent, and that is the key to keeping them engaged.

Those that get the best results need the least management, right? – Your most talented employees, your most productive, they don’t need a hands on approach… they respect autonomy, trust and freedom, no? Well, not exactly.

The most talented and the most intelligent often admit to perceiving the workplace differently. After all, perceiving things differently is exactly what makes them intelligent.

They can quickly become disengaged if they believe management are not doing a good enough job, and not properly utilising and respecting their skillset. They can become swiftly uninterested in boring or meaningless work.

According to Harvard Business Review, it would be a mistake to assume ‘high potentials’ are the most engaged, quite the opposite:

  • One in four intends to leave your employ within the year.
  • One in three admits to not putting all his effort into his job.
  • One in five believes her personal aspirations are quite different from what the organization has planned for her.
  • Four out of 10 have little confidence in their co-workers and even less confidence in the senior team.

Management and generational differences

There is a generational difference in attitudes towards work, retention and engagement. Younger generations have grown up in a world of fluid, flexible and often precarious employment. Millions of Britons work in the gig economy, and those that do are disproportionately young.  

Many amongst Generation Z have worked in low wage service roles or short term for the giant tech platforms; the idea of workplace culture and shared values can seem anathema to them. It would be amiss to assume these experiences – working Saturday jobs, part-time or alongside university studies – do not shape their relationship to the workplace.

This generation has grown up in the wake of the financial crash believing that work won’t love them back. Their relationship with Tesco, Wetherspoons, Uber, Amazon, Deliveroo – whoever it is they might have worked for in the past – has been purely transactional. So too their experience with an extortionately expensive higher education system.

There are high-performing masters students studying at Russel Group universities working at Amazon ‘fulfilment’ centres in the holidays. This is the reality, and it is important to understand how the coming generation of talent perceive work differently as a result.

To a certain extent, it is a classic case of chicken and egg. An older generation who grew up in the age of stable, long term employment, became accustomed to valuing stable, long term employment.

This generation, on the other hand, is acclimatised to transactional, short term work – this changes your expectations, and makes management difficult. Nobody asks a Deliveroo rider to be ‘engaged’ or believe in the Deliveroo mission – they ask them to do their job and sod off.

Management: an opportunity

Here, though, presents itself an opportunity. The crucial element in keeping the next generation of talent engaged will be the work itself. The rest will come after. But if you’ve grown up in a transactional workplace trading time for money, then it’s the prospect of genuinely interesting, potentially rewarding, work that makes the difference. What you don’t want, is to trade time for money under the pretense that that is not what is actually happening.

Gen Z value autonomy, the freedom to complete their work as it suits them. They also value trust – the feeling that management has faith in their ability to complete their work. The two are tied together. And finally, they value meaning – if they feel the work is interesting, and meaningful, they will get it done, and to a high standard.

The other stuff – engagement, respect, teamwork – will likely flow from there. Meaningful work is craved for by younger generations, and that is the key to keeping the next generation of talent engaged.     

For help retaining your talent, give PACC a call on 0161 883 1149.