Providing growth paths, feedback, and adapting to technology are ways to better engage the Gen Z workforce. - Photo: Canva/Automotive Fleet

Providing growth paths, feedback, and adapting to technology are ways to better engage the Gen Z workforce.

Photo: Canva/Automotive Fleet

As Gen X and Baby Boomers retire, Gen Z is beginning to move into the workforce. Every generation of workers has different communication styles, work methods, and management preferences. Those in management must adapt, to retain a solid workforce. 

Time is of the essence. By 2025, the World Economic Forum estimates that Gen Z will make up one-third of the workforce. 

At the 2023 Fleet Forward Conference, a panel of fleet professionals shared ways to bring the newest generation of workers on board at the workplace. 

Greater Involvement and a Desire to Grow 

Udemy Customer Success Manager Fontaine Schaber noted that across the board, the priorities of the Gen Z workforce are pretty consistent. They have made it clear that they want to be involved in their workplace operations. 

“They are looking to organizations to provide them with clear career paths through internal mobility and skills development. And I think what's unique about this is that these are not just expectations of theirs, but it actually matches what organizations need, especially when we think about how quickly skills are evolving with technology,” Schaber said. 

Gen Z is also looking for ways to engage with colleagues, with things like social learning communities. 

“These are digital communities that are visible across the entire organization. It's a space where employees are having opportunities to engage with each other, provide feedback, get feedback, as well as most importantly seeing the skills that are being developed by their peers. And as an outcome of that, it's actually becoming a source of motivation, to encourage employees to invest in their own skills development, and really to think about their career goals as well,” Schaber added. 

This can lead to higher satisfactory scores on employee surveys. 

One factor that is critical among the new workforce is feedback. A study from The Center for Generational Kinetics states that 66% of Gen Z workers need continuous feedback from their workplace. Feedback can help employees stay engaged and can create a desire to grow within their workplace. 

Satellites Unlimited Occupational Safety and Health Manager Cortez Tolbert agreed that these kinds of investments are crucial. 

“This generation wants to be more involved in their organization than just the day-to-day operations or their responsibility. Our drivers are asking for more tools to help them collaborate, communicate, and be engaged to be more productive on the job,” Tolbert said. “They associate their work with their personal values. They're always asking for tools to help them collaborate, communicate, and be more productive.” 

Leaning Into Technology 

Drivers are "always asking for tools to help them collaborate, communicate, and be more productive.” Cortez Tolbert (second left) of Satellites Unlimited told panelist Ingo Wiegand of Samsara...

Drivers are "always asking for tools to help them collaborate, communicate, and be more productive.” Cortez Tolbert (second left) of Satellites Unlimited told panelist Ingo Wiegand of Samsara (left). Mark Fontecchio of 451 Research and Fontaine Schaber of Udemy were also on the panel.

Photo: Photo: Lauren Brooks, Monclay Media

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence are gaining momentum in the workplace. As Gen Z looks to grow in the workplace, AI technology can help them manage their time more efficiently. A workplace that is unwilling to experiment with AI will likely be left behind. 

“What [AI is] doing is it is literally forcing every single employer and employee to rethink what time and productivity look like in this new world where things are automated, to remove a lot of the tactical and create more space for strategic work,” Schaber said. 

Research Analyst Mark Fontecchio of 451 Research has also noticed Gen Z is a workforce that’s more willing to use safety technology. When things like telematics devices and in-car cameras gained popularity among fleets, many voiced opposition due to privacy concerns. This is not something the younger workforce generally pushes back against. 

“We're talking about a younger generation that has grown up on and around screens, and so they're a little bit more comfortable being on video,” Fontecchio said. “The younger generation is maybe a little bit more willing to sacrifice a little bit of privacy, if it means that they're driving more safely.” 

A combination of AI, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), telematics, and cameras can be invaluable, allowing drivers to feel less stressed while driving and do their jobs better. 

“They don't have to concentrate so much on the driving aspect of it because of what we call a copilot. They have a dual- facing camera in their vehicle that analyzes road conditions and tells them when they're tailgating, so it takes a little bit off them so they can strategically think about the customer interface when they get to the customer's house,” Tolbert said. 

That’s not to say these technologies should ever replace driver responsibility behind the wheel. They are simply meant to help increase safety, which can in turn lead to more productive drivers. 

The expansion of vehicle technology can also provide greater insights into driver behavior. 

In one example, Fontecchio explained that where a telematics device alone might record a hard braking incident, a dash camera might reveal that the driver had to slam on his or her brakes due to a driver cutting them off. In this case, the hard braking was necessary and protected the driver. 

A ‘Safety First’ Generation 

Safety is front of mind for many young employees. They value a work environment where they feel protected.

“Things like safety — for both themselves and others — could be the reason why an employee will choose an organization to work at, as well as also potentially be a reason for them to leave,” Schaber said. 

A LinkedIn survey revealed that 87% of Gen Z professionals would be prepared to quit their jobs to work elsewhere if the company’s values don’t align with their own. For a generation that values safety, a lack of initiatives and technologies geared toward promoting safety can mean moving on to another company. 

Safety is also something that can be incentivized to promote a more secure work environment, Tolbert said. Samsara has a driver scorecard system.

At Satellites Unlimited, drivers use this scorecard to see how they’re improving, and see how their peers are improving. The company has an initiative that gives drivers monetary incentives for being the safest driver during a period. 

Cross-Training for Employee Retention 

In a culture where workforce retention typically focuses on upward mobility, Schaber encouraged people to think about cross-company mobility. When you notice a skill in an employee that can be developed outside of their current role, it can open up more opportunities and increase employee retention

“If there are more opportunities for an employee to move within the organization…that is more motivating for an employee to stay because they have more opportunity,” Schaber said.  

“From a productivity standpoint, if an employee is starting to develop new and different skills that are outside of their typical job function, they start to have opportunities, and an organization can start to plug them into taking on different projects or different initiatives that are beyond the scope of their day-to-day work. What we have seen, especially with these younger generations, is that challenging work helps drive further engagement.” 

Putting time into training and growing skills among your current workforce can help prevent a labor shortage, which much of the industry is facing.  

“For the younger generation, if they come into an organization that is investing in them and investing in their skills, then they're going to be more likely to stay with that organization,” Fontecchio said. 

Investments like this can lead to a huge return on investment through a more stable workplace. 

“Providing these tools and technologies, especially when it comes to self-guided learning and learning in the flow of work…[is] paying off. And they are seeing significantly higher employee engagement scores, which oftentimes are being released as often as quarterly. That is having an impact on increasing retention,” Schaber said.

Originally posted on Automotive Fleet

About the author
Christy Grimes

Christy Grimes

Senior Editor

Christy Grimes is a Senior Editor at Bobit, working on Automotive Fleet and Government Fleet publications. She has also written for School Bus Fleet.

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