The secret to boosting employee engagement for Millennials and Gen Z

Look around you. Do you notice it gets harder and harder for a company to engage employees and retain talent? Have you, yourself, ever considered working somewhere else, where the grass is greener? Is your workplace disruptive, sustainable and are you using the newest of the newest digital collaboration tools?

Employee engagement is on the rise

Europe has witnessed an upward trend in employee engagement, with the Netherlands scoring a whopping 7 percent higher than the past year. Time for celebration? Although statistics seem promising, Europe still lags behind global employee engagement statistics. Furthermore, millennials are the least engaged generation in the workforce with only 29 percent being actively engaged while millennials will take up to 75 percent of the workforce in 2025. So, what can we do to increase employee engagement?

Companies need to adjust their workplace to the needs of the current and future workforce, which have an entirely different skill set than 30 years ago. And they can't do it alone. 

To watch this video you need to accept marketing cookies

Hosted by the School of Workplace Innovation and partners, five participating corporates (Accenture,, Enexis, EY, and PwC) met with selected startups and scaleups to find exciting solutions to engage employees at the workplace. Throughout the program, we have identified two key ingredients to future employee engagement: a workplace centered around employee well-being and a solid digital strategy.

This is article three of our series on workplace experience. For article one, click below.

Employee wellness becomes a focal point for boosting employee engagement

Being born in a time of technological advancements and heavy social media use impacts both the physical and mental health of the youngest workforce. In fact, Gen Z recorded the poorest mental health out of all generations, 27 percent rating it as fair or poor in 2018. At the same time, only half feel that they actively manage their stress. 

Employees value health and employers value healthy employees. Thus, it comes to no surprise that companies increasingly are having a focal point on employee wellness to retain top talent.     

Employee engagement - Colorful balloon head - by Accenture

At the same time, there is a business case for investing in employee wellness. The return on investment on employee wellness programs can be as high as six to one. Tools centered around employee well-being include stress-reducing technologies and human-centered workplace cultures. 

1. Stress reducing technologies are booming 

With the rise of useful workplace tools and activities, companies are stepping up their game to introduce both physical and mental health activities to the workplace. Organizations are keeping employees fit through digital coaching (Funxtion) and wearable devices (8sense), while others observe, acknowledge and localize mental stress activities through gamification (Jamzone) and aim to reduce stress related to noise (Endel).

The physical surrounding of the employee also adds to the well-being of the workforce. Most likely linked to our time as hunter-gatherers, nature and nature elements help us to mentally relax. With the help of multi-functional green products for office spaces (e.g. The Greener Good), we can increase creativity, productivity ánd employee happiness.

2. Human-centered workplace cultures

With the new workforce, workplace culture is taking on a new shape. A human shape.  

In order to sustain a 'human-first' culture, a top-down approach from C-level executives is imperative, especially when leaders account for a 70 percent variance in team engagement. It is crucial to identify moments that matter, which can range from a simple 'I want to submit an idea' to 'I need to explore new roles'. 

One trait is particularly important to enable moments that matter: empathy. Employees need to feel that they are recognized, their ideas being taken seriously and that they are valued for their work. 

Employee engagement - Boy spraying colorful graffiti - by Accenture

Also, having the ability to give upwards feedback remains crucial. Only one in four employees strongly agree that their company takes their feedback and suggestions seriously. Potential help in developing open feedback and possibilities of identifying moments that matter lies in employee engagement through gamification (e.g. Vertellis).

Lastly, sustainability plays an important role in supporting a human-centered workplace culture in today’s workforce. Employees are feeling empowered when they are driven by purpose. In fact, 75 percent of millennials would agree to a pay-cut if the company they work for is socially responsible. In order to align with this need, startups have developed solutions to help corporate sustainability goals (e.g. Bycycling). 

A liquid workforce requires a solid digital strategy to boost employee engagement

The new generation is used to being digital nomads. Flexible working hours, working from anywhere around the world and freelancing indicate a flight towards a new form of collaboration. No wonder the new workforce goes by the name of liquid workforce.

Technology is an enabler of a workforce composed of digital nomads. In an Aruba study about the digital workplace, digital revolutionaries, employees with fully enabled digital workspaces, were compared to digital laggards, employees with comparably less workplace technology. They found that

  • 70 percent of digital revolutionaries mention improvements in collaboration in comparison to 55 percent of laggards.
  • Digital revolutionaries are 51 percent more likely to have a strong job satisfaction than laggards.
  • Digital revolutionaries are 43 percent more likely to be positive about their work-life balance than laggards.

The implications? Companies need to incorporate digital tools into their digital strategy. But where to start?

Boost employee engagement - Divers mixture of millennials - by Accenture

1. Digitally enabled office spaces and collaboration

New innovations are enabling a smooth employee experience by equipping the office as well as the team with digital means.

First thing in the morning when entering an office building, it all starts with your physical entrance badge. But why not enter an entrance through facial recognition (20Face), recognizing the meeting room availability while regulating the environmental factors (Spica) and finding your way via smart tags (TicTag)? 

Once inside, new technologies aid in selecting the right team with the right skill and distributing the tasks accordingly (Part-up) and getting things done before the meeting (Yabbu). Think about it, how long to you take writing an email? The average 35 to 50-year-old takes up to 24 minutes to respond, does that sound productive to you? Well-known services such as Slack perfectly step in there, reporting a reduction of email usage of 48.8 percent and 32.4 percent productivity gains by using its digital platform. 

2. Digital technologies make meetings productive

So, the meeting scan start now. However, meetings are often unproductive and feel like a waste of time. We all understand that taking minutes is important to keep up to date and to make sure that meetings remain effective and action-oriented. Don't worry, we got you covered. Why not use technology instead of having someone typing out all what is being said (Amberscript)? Or do you want to enable live translations in your meeting to empower global teams (Zoi Meet)?

And lastly, are your teammates still distracted you at the meeting, picking up their phone all the time? Have a look at Juce’s new gadget!

With the new workforce, workplace culture is taking on a new shape. A human shape. 

By enabling digital collaboration through the latest digital means, tedious processes are automated, focus is restored and employee engagement and productivity increases. 

So, from the School of Workplace Innovation perspective, we suggest companies to center around employee well-being and create a solid digital strategy. By enabling digital collaboration through the latest digital means, tedious processes are automated, focus is restored, and employee engagement and productivity are increased.

Are you interested in joining the ecosystem?

Are you interested in tackling the challenge on workplace innovation or do you want to receive more information about the potential of an open innovation program for your company? Please contact Féline Mollerus.

Authors: Féline Mollerus Liz Pfeffer