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Getting the Most Out of #WorkTok

As Gen Z brings workplace woes to social media, HR leaders can leverage internet trends to improve retention and engagement among the younger members of the workforce. 

By Maggie Mancini

Gen Z, like each generation that preceded them, is continuing to challenge the status quo and leave their mark on the world of work. On #WorkTok, younger members of the workforce are taking over content feeds to voice their dissatisfaction at work and desire to balance their mental health with the demands of the corporate world. These users speak openly—and often jokingly—about the impacts of burnout, excessive workloads, and lack of communication from managers. Among the most viral of these work-related trends is #QuitTok, where employees film themselves in the moments before, during, and after quitting their jobs or being laid off.  

These workers often reflect on their experiences in the workforce and the disconnect between their expectations and the reality of their industry within a tight job market, airing their grievances for the world to see. And with millions of people tuning in, it’s up to HR to address these underlying concerns and cultivate a better workplace experience for everyone.   

One of the most effective ways to get ahead of becoming the next organization at the center of #QuitTok is to proactively seek out the reasons why employees are thinking about leaving, and then devise ways to improve, says Hannah Yardley, chief human resources officer at Achievers. She explains that the company’s 2024 Engagement and Retention report finds that the top three reasons employees leave a company—compensation, career progression, and work flexibility—haven’t changed in several years.  

“While some of those factors are not quick fixes, let’s say compensation, HR leaders should explore alternatives to improve the others and keep employees engaged and happy,” Yardley says. “It can be something as simple as connecting employees with a mentor to supplement their professional growth, offering additional options for flexibility, or increasing social recognition.”  

As these #WorkTok trends go viral on social media, it’s important for HR leaders to better understand them to help address their own organization’s talent attraction, engagement, and retention, particularly as 41% of employees are planning to look for new jobs this year.  

“The best way to learn from trends like #QuitTok is to evaluate them head-on and think about how your organization is helping or hurting itself when talking about employee experience,” Yardley says. “HR leaders can keep a pulse on the most common job-hunting motivators by utilizing social listening and looking at TikTok comment sections to see where conversations are going, then reflecting on whether they are meeting employees’ needs or if they could be doing better.”  

Yardley adds that, for many, #QuitTok is breaking the stigma associated with quitting and getting rid of some of the unknown that comes with it—and that’s a good thing. At the same time, social media trends offer a chance for HR leaders to reflect on the employee experiences they’ve cultivating and discover potential ways to improve their company while boosting talent retention.  

The Rise of the “Cool” Millennial Manager 

As the workforce prepares for the mass retirement of baby boomers, younger workers are moving through the ranks and entering leadership positions. In some cases, millennials are using their newfound leadership roles to change the way managers are perceived by their direct reports.  

Enter the “cool” millennial manager. These tech-savvy leaders are often categorized as calm, lenient, and deeply opposed to micromanaging. They don’t need to hear why employees are taking time away from work or blocking out time on their calendars. They understand the importance of taking breaks to eat, walk the dog, or go to a quick doctor’s appointment.  

For the millions of social media users engaging with #WorkTok, these are important distinctions, particularly as Gen Z and millennials are poised to make up 75% of the global workforce by 2030. 

Yardley says that historically, it has been seen as taboo to get too personal at work or express workload concerns with colleagues and managers. For Gen Z and millennials, those rules simply don’t work, she explains. Rather, younger members of the workforce are seeking work-life balance and aren’t afraid to refuse opportunities that don’t provide them with the flexibility they crave.  

Further, she says, younger generations are much more likely to want to have tough conversations on issues outside of work in the workplace, and people management has become more holistic as a result. Still, these younger generations are 31% more likely to say they don’t feel safe doing so.  

Yardley suggests that businesses take this as a sign to improve their people management training and ensure that managers can navigate tough conversations and lead with empathy—especially since one in four managers have had sufficient training on the topic, she adds.  

“For the millennials managers trying to do this, their efforts don’t go unnoticed, as Gen Z is more likely to say their managers have a lot of empathy, but they need to be refined considering one in four still wouldn’t recommend their manager to others,” Yardley says. “By upskilling managers, organizations build a happier, more engaged, and committed workforce.”  

For millennials stepping into management roles, honing leadership skills is critical to becoming more effective leaders. Yardley says that, while developing strong management skills is no easy feat, millennials trying to improve everything all at once can often be a wasted effort. Research finds that employees’ top factors for an effective manager are recognition, contact, coaching, and professional development. Even managers who excel in just one of these areas are twice as likely to be rated as effective.  

Achievers’ Workforce Institute research reveals the key formula for effective one-on-one meetings, and it comes down to four topics that should be addressed at every meeting:  

  • recognition; 
  • well-being checks; 
  • coaching; and  
  • discussions on professional development.  

“Working on regular contact is an easy place to start, it just requires some adjustments for how managers run their one-on-one meetings,” Yardley says. “So, for stressed out millennial managers trying their best, HR can help by arming them with a scientifically proven formula to improve communication with their direct reports.”  

While Yardley anticipates that some organizations will pull back on transparency out of fear of social media trends, her biggest takeaway for HR leaders is to listen and act. The real winners, she says, will be the organizations taking advantage of these trends to hear employee concerns and lean into their transparency efforts to help build trust with employees.  

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