Gen Z college graduates are 2.5 times more likely to stay with their employer for five or more years if they feel their skills are fully utilized with challenging, meaningful work.

Communicate the meaning of Gen Z's work so that a sense of purpose, not necessarily passion, can be instilled. Purpose trumps passion. Passion can energize employees but it also isolates because passions can be individualistic. Purpose, on the other hand, is shared. Purpose knits teams and organizations together.

A sense of purpose increases engagement and often sparks "above and beyond" behaviors.

For example, Adam Grant of the Wharton School found that fundraisers who were attempting to secure scholarship donations felt more motivated when they had contact with scholarship recipients. Grant also found that lifeguards were more vigilant after reading stories about people whose lives have been saved by lifeguards. Similarly, in another study, cooks were more motivated and worked harder when they saw those who would be eating their food. Lastly, other studies have shown that x-ray scanning accuracy increases when radiologists are shown a picture of the patient.

Identifying the beneficiaries of one's labor introduces more meaning and purpose at work, thus increasing employee engagement.

How can you discover the beneficiary of one's labor? Ask why repeatedly.

  • Why do you clean hotel rooms? "Because that's what my boss tells me to do." 
  • Why does that matter? "Because it keeps the rooms from getting dirty." 
  • Why does that matter? "Because it makes the rooms more sanitary and more pleasant." 
  • Why does that matter? "Because it provides a clean space for customers to relax and rejuvenate."

People want more from work than just a paycheck. And Gen Z leads the way in this desire, with 74 percent of Gen Z believing jobs should have greater meaning, compared to 70 percent of Millennials and 69 percent of older generations. In addition, 30 percent of Gen Z would take a 10-20 percent pay cut to work for a company with a mission they deeply care about.

Connecting employees (especially Gen Z) to the beneficiaries of their work creates more engagement, motivation, and allows employees to transcend their task lists.

Beyond the performance benefits, there are psychological benefits as well. Grant found that the words of beneficiaries of one's assistance can be more motivating than those of inspirational leaders.

Receiving positive words from co-workers or other internal beneficiaries of employee's work strengthens workers sense of belongingness, a fundamental human need and important source of motivation.

When Gen Z can see how their work directly helps others (internally or externally), that's meaningful.

Engagement will follow.

Published on: Jul 10, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.