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Gen Z Just Wants to Belong. Here’s How to Create a Sense of Community and Belonging in the Workplace

August 16, 2023
Parker Pell

In today's diverse and interconnected world, fostering an inclusive workplace that celebrates diversity and ensures equity is no longer just a goal—it's a necessity. Feeling welcomed, valued, included, and connected is key in engaging and retaining Gen Z

Characterized by diversity and progressive values, Gen Z stands as the most diverse age group in the U.S., with nearly 48% identifying as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), and 1 in 5 identifying as queer. And, nearly 9 in 10 Gen Zers express a desire to work for an employer whose values align with their own beliefs. It’s understandable: Gen Z wants to bring their full, authentic selves to work, including their values and personal identities. So, when companies take a stand for social causes, they not only display social consciousness and inclusivity but create a safe environment for their employees.

To unlock the full potential of this talent pool, organizations must move beyond mere lip service to inclusive practices and establish robust, internal support systems that foster a genuine sense of community and belonging among Generation Z. Below, we discuss actionable ways your team can translate the principle of belonging into actual practice:

What your company stands for is just as important as what your company does

We know that Gen Z is diverse, intentional, and acutely aware of DEI&B issues in the workplace. So how does this impact your DEI&B and ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) initiatives? 

Gen Z employees – if they haven’t already – will likely inquire or research topics like:

  • Fair hiring practices
  • The organization’s stance on climate change
  • The distribution of anti-racism education
  • How the company celebrates employee performance
  • The cadence of DEI&B trainings and workshops
  • The central mission or goal that the organization is working toward
  • How the company addresses friction or conflict
  • The celebration of cultural holidays or heritage months

If your answers lack intention or clear solutions, Gen Z will hold you accountable. On a positive note, Gen Z appreciates companies that have genuine intentions and they are willing to help identify and bridge any disconnects within your DEI&B and ESG initiatives, resulting in a more well-rounded, strategic, and collaborative team.

“Organizations are going to have to decide how willing and ready they are to deliver on their promises. Especially if they want to continue to attract the right people and sustain themselves over some period of time.” – Turiya Gray, Chief People Officer, Jellyvision

Read between the lines of your employee handbook

The majority of Gen Z employees entered the workforce amidst the pandemic, completing their college degrees, navigating a challenging job market, and attending virtual interviews. As a result, they lack familiarity with traditional office norms, politics, interpersonal dynamics, and standard practices that have shaped the conventional workplace. Navigating and assimilating to these “unwritten rules” of the workplace can be tricky; as an employer, guiding and mentoring Gen Z can help foster a positive and successful work environment. Be cognizant of what’s not in your employee handbook and discuss topics like:

  • Flexibility. Is the workplace as flexible as was discussed in the interview/hiring process? Are employees expected to be at their desk by a certain time each day? Having a clear understanding of the actual workday and expectations can prevent missteps and enable your employees to plan their extracurriculars accordingly. 
  • Open door policies. Are there boundaries around open-door policies? Help young employees understand what exactly this means so they can share their ideas effectively and appropriately. 
  • Communication expectations. Are employees expected to respond to emails or other communications immediately? Within 8 hours? Within 24 hours? Knowing when – and how – to communicate is important. 
  • When to take vacation. The employee handbook will tell employees how much time they get to take off, but the culture will tell them whether or not people actually pay attention to the policy. Help Gen Z understand what path is best!

Despite what Gen Z receives in their orientation materials, a significant portion of what they need to know in their new role won’t (necessarily) be written down. Observe where those gaps are to help them quickly adapt and assimilate to learn the unspoken norms. This can help immediately build rapport, support, and advocacy as they onboard into your company. 

Enable your managers 

The manager-employee relationship is crucial (it’s one of the leading reasons why employees leave their jobs!), so avoid the assumption that managers inherently understand the importance of workplace diversity or have the skills to effectively lead and support a diverse team. Invest in your manager’s success by providing them with the necessary tools, skills, and knowledge around topics like cultural sensitivity, leadership development, addressing biases, and more. 

Encourage managers to be role models and ambassadors for diversity and equity in their decision-making processes and communication. Consider the diversity of your manager cohorts, as well. Diverse leadership teams can also serve as powerful advocates and examples for inclusive practices and mentorship opportunities. 

Key Takeaways

Building a workplace that reflects a true sense of belonging is an ongoing journey that requires commitment, effort, and continuous improvement. By implementing these examples, employers can create an environment where employees thrive, innovate, and contribute their best selves, fostering a culture that embraces diversity and celebrates the unique strengths each individual brings to the table.

Embracing belonging isn't just a buzzword—it's a transformative approach that drives organizational success. Creating an environment where every employee feels valued, respected, and has a sense of belonging is not only a moral obligation but also a strategic imperative (that impacts a company’s bottom line!), 

For more insights like these, consider Abode. Abode is used for any teams who hire, onboard, train, and retain employees. Our all-in-one platform provides incoming hires with the transparency, expectations, and community they need to be successful. To learn more, visit our website or schedule a demo with our team here

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