Creating a better workplace experience

With a robust economy and record-low unemployment at 3.8 percent nationally, most businesses list their No. 1 challenge as attracting and retaining a qualified workforce. Not only is it difficult to find candidates to fill open positions, but it’s a cutthroat competition to attract the best and brightest talent.

Contrary to what we learned in Econ 101 about supply and demand, wages are relatively stagnant. It’s a head-scratcher, but there are many reasons for this, including increased use of part-time employees, contractors and freelancers, and more adults choosing self-employment.

Even though wages and benefits are the fundamental reasons employees go to work, base pay no longer ranks as the No. 1 criteria for where employees choose to work. Unlike previous generations, so-called Gen Z — those born after 1995 and just now entering the workforce en masse — values workplace culture and personal satisfaction as much as money in their choice of employer.

Gen Z soon will represent the largest segment of our workforce, surpassing baby boomers in size and influence. Unlike the conspicuous consumption of their parents, Gen Z came of age during the Great Recession of 2008. They are frugal with their money and choose to spend it on “experiences” versus “things.”

The single biggest experience we have as adults is time spent at work. With that in mind, fostering employee engagement through workplace experience is the secret to success in attracting, engaging and retaining a highly motivated, productive and talent-rich workforce.

There are four keys to creating an inspiring workplace experience.

  • A shared sense of purpose between employer and employee that is clearly communicated, continually reinforced and frequently assessed for its engagement. Beyond your mission, vision and values, younger employees want to understand their role in creating a better world around them versus simply being a cog in the process of producing a product or delivering a service.
  • Bottom-up versus top-down management. Gen Z is less hierarchical than previous generations. They view their ideas as mission-critical to creating a better workplace experience for everyone. Remember that Gen Z was born with a mobile device in their hands, and they strongly influence corporate reputation through use of online apps like Glassdoor, LinkedIn, Snapchat and Facebook.
  • View work as something you do, not just a place to do it. There is no doubt that Gen Z values the professional camaraderie and friendships made in the workplace. However, younger employees highly value the flexibility of where, when and how their work gets done. The best employers not only consider work from home and flexible work hours, but they encourage employees to take time to care for themselves, others and their communities.
  • Invest in both personal and professional growth and development. The quickest way to lose a valuable employee is when they perceive their skills development and growth in responsibilities have stalled. The healthiest workplaces have a relentless commitment to employee orientation, training, professional development, continuing education, mentorship opportunities, promotions in title and responsibilities, and memberships in professional associations.

Neil Mortine is the president and CEO of Fahlgren Mortine, one of the largest Ohio-based communications and creative services agencies, with 11 offices in the U.S. and affiliate relationships overseas. Neil recently was recognized as the nation’s Outstanding PR Professional of the Year and Fahlgren Mortine was named Global Agency of the Year by leading industry trade publications.