Multiethnic group of smiling young business people standing and talking in conference room

Engaging the Newest Generation in the Workplace

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Training and development approaches have evolved in many ways over the past few decades. With each generation entering the workplace, different preferences toward learning emerge, and many trends spike in popularity. Whether you’re a training professional looking to implement large-scale initiatives or a manager with a new 20-something team member, the idea presented below are guaranteed to engage your employees from the start.

Invest in Mentoring (Even if You Don’t Have a Formal Program)

You may think mentors aren’t necessary when there are countless blog posts, e-learning modules, and Slack channels to connect this younger generation to their colleagues and build their development skills. Twenty-somethings grew up in a world where information was available at their fingertips through lightning-speed Wi-Fi connections and smartphones. Despite this immediate access to the worldwide web of content, 20-somethings traditionally grew up with structured schedules orchestrated by adults. In the workplace, they rely on managers to provide them with structure. It’s no surprise that almost 80 percent of employees are more engaged when they have a mentor at work.

If you have a formal mentoring program, grab any information you can to deliver to your team members. Your interest in their development will encourage their participation.

If you don’t have a formal program, you can still find a way to reap the benefits of mentorship. Employee resource groups, affinity groups, and company-sponsored events provide a great opportunity to meet colleagues who you may not interact with in your role. Encourage your team members to attend these events—or even better, match them with someone you know at the company who could be a great mentor.


Get Personal

It’s sometimes hard to walk the line between buddy and boss, but the best way to engage your team is to make it personal. You should try to build a personal relationship and find out what makes your team members thrive. For one, it might be traveling to new places; another might love working on group assignments; and someone else may desire opportunities to speak in front of leadership.

Twenty-somethings crave connection. According to some estimates, a majority even want to hear from their managers once a day. As a manager, make sure you meet monthly—at a minimum—with your employees to chat about projects and growth. Provide them with opportunities to learn, whether it’s time off to attend a training workshop or, if you have a budget, a subscription to a specialty publication or professional association (like ATD).

Embrace Diversity

This generation was born into a globally connected world. Diversity and inclusion initiatives are a must-have to engage and retain Gen Z: 77 percent said a company’s diversity level affects their decision to work there. Despite their digital fluency, Gen Z prefers to interact with colleagues face-to-face, so conversation and connection is paramount to inclusion. Encourage your team members to attend employee resource groups or empower them to start their own. A one-size-fits-all training plan won’t do with this crew, so employ your team to find opportunities to implement inclusive strategies.

During my session at ATD 2019 International Conference & Exposition, we will explore more trends in learning that appeal to 20-somethings. I hope you can join me.

About the Author

Brad Karsh is the founder and CEO of JB Training Solutions. An accomplished public speaker and generational expert, Brad has been featured on CNN, CNBC, and Dr. Phil, and has been quoted in all-but-one of the following publications: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Fortune, USA Today, and Tiger Beat. Brad is also the author of three business books including the critically acclaimed Manager 3.0: A Millennial's Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management, which you can read in Mandarin (assuming you can read Mandarin). Prior to creating JB Training Solutions, Brad spent 15 years at advertising agency Leo Burnett in Chicago. Today, Brad travels the world speaking at major organizations including Google, Marriott, Discover, Eli Lilly, and The Chicago Blackhawks, among many others. Brad presents annually at the Society for Human Resource Management National Conference and was ranked #1 out of more than 200 speakers. When he's not enjoying a copious buffet, you can find Brad playing racquetball, avoiding all cheese, or drafting the perfect fantasy football roster. Brad is left-handed.

Sign In to Post a Comment
I'm leading a program for a large Telco. The target audience is New Grads. The topic is leadership. The framing is leading with "influence" rather than positional authority. Similar courses are being offered to other audiences (aka. older) in the company. The satisfaction scores for the New Grads are 50% lower than all other audiences. We know it's a good design and rich with interaction and skill practice. We're stuck. Any tips or resources you'd recommend?
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
I'm curious how this is specific to "Twenty-somethings"? While using Generations as a topic of discussion is a great way to get peoples attention it continues to feel like a shortcut using vague stereotypes that just get applied to new people every 10-20 years based on their date of birth and nothing else. Many of the items outlined can easily be applied to employees of all ages, backgrounds, values, and skills. There is a great Ted Talk to this point by Leah Georges, I'd have a watch.
Thanks for the suggestion, Trey! The URL for that TED talk is
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
This is amazing and most of it is true I believe. But I believe that softwares nowadays are playing a major role in the world of mentoring. Try out peopleHum( and lemme know!
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.
Sorry! Something went wrong on our end. Please try again later.