By Danielle Buckley, Workplace Psychologist and Coach
As Generation Z make their way into the workforce, employers are forced to think about how best to recruit, engage and retain our future leaders.
The new generation entering the workforce come with unique characteristics and traits and getting the most out of, and supporting these new workers, will not only be hard but it will require a cultural shift in the way leaders manage and work with younger workers.
According to the 2018 Skillsroad Youth Census, which surveyed over 25,000 young Australians between 15-24, two thirds of participants said they experienced sadness, anxiety or worry that significantly impacted how they study, live or work.
To fully support the new generation entering the workforce, we need to focus on their wellbeing. Wellbeing is not just about green juices and going for a run, it is a broader term used to describe how ‘good’ our lives are.
This involves how we function on a personal level, and includes our ability to think clearly, feel a sense of autonomy, experience positive emotions and feel optimistic. It also encompasses how we function on a social level, such as whether we have positive relationships, engage in prosocial behaviours as well as whether we are compassionate and empathetic.
To support the wellbeing of younger employees, we need to focus on helping them build relationships at work, building a positive workplace environment, and creating a coaching culture.
Wellbeing for workplaces
Having employees with high wellbeing will improve your bottom line. In a study by Right Management, the percentage of engaged employees’ skyrockets from 7 per cent to 55 per cent where organisations successfully manage wellbeing. In the same study, highly sought after soft skills like creativity and innovation have been shown to increase from 20 per cent to 72 per cent.
Wellbeing is also related to employee health, with high wellbeing associated with a lower risk of physical health problems like heart disease, stroke and common colds, as well as better mental functioning like high levels of resilience, clear goals and low feelings of helplessness.
With workers in poor physical and mental health taking up to nine times more sick leave and contributing significantly less productive hours, estimated at 94 less effective hours each month, it is increasingly important to prioritise the wellbeing of employees.
When employers say they want their staff to be more resilient, build better relationships, think more innovatively, solve more problems or think more clearly what they are really saying is that they want to improve the wellbeingof their employees.
Wellbeing for young people at work
Some important findings for workplaces are in terms of expectations, with over one third of respondents in the Skillroads survey reported that their biggest expectation when starting with a new employer is having a positive and friendly workplace environment. This was followed by coaching and mentoring and then opportunities for progression.
Also in the study, the number one reason young people would leave an employer is lack of opportunity to progress, grow and develop, followed by not being in a friendly and supportive work environment. This is important for employers and managers to note, because when it comes to retaining talent, the biggest investment you can make is in creating flourishing workplaces and to do that you need to invest in creating flourishing individuals who have high levels of wellbeing and skills to coach and engage the next generation.
As for companies that did this, the results were evident. Youth who reported knowing what was expected of them at work had significantly higher levels of wellbeing than those that did not know what was expected of them. Youth who felt cared for at work, had significantly higher levels of wellbeing than those that did not. Youth who rated their manager positively, had significantly higher level of wellbeing that those that did not rate their manager well.
Here are three things every manager or employer of youth need to focus on if they want to improve wellbeing and their bottom line.
Relationships matter: Employers/managers need to invest in building relationships at work, young people want workplaces where they know what is expected from them, where they feel supported and valued and they have social connections.
Build a positive workplace environment: Young people want to go to work and work in a positive and friendly workplace where they feel cared for.
Create a coaching culture: Having clear expectations and knowing what is expected of a young person significantly improves their wellbeing. This means managers, supervisors and staff need to invest in developing the tools to be coaches and create a culture and environment that supports and encourages basic coaching practices.
Young people expect that employers will value them, invest in and provide opportunities to develop social connections. As we know, social connections are an integral part of wellbeing. Investing in wellbeing can be as simple as investing in building quality relationships, developing clear guidelines and boundaries and having a supportive manager who enables a young person to feel cared for at work.
These practices alone improve employee functioning, which in turn improves their performance and your productivity. In business today, employers shouldn’t be asking should they invest in wellbeing, they should be reflecting on what they will lose if they don’t.
About Danielle Buckley
Danielle Buckley is an expert in workplace psychology and mental health in the workplace. She is a registered Psychologist with 15 years’ experience, and has a Postgraduate and a Master’s Degree in Psychology. Danielle specialises in program development to support the mental health wellbeing of everyone in the organisation including coaching, Positive Psychology and performance issues, and stress related issues. (danielle-buckley.com)