The young people of today are the future of tomorrow. But there’s a problem. They are becoming less engaged than previous generations. This situation calls into question many things for organizations looking to recruit younger talent and move them up through the company.

Our Marketing recruiters in Toronto love to talk about engagement. They like to talk about it in the context of marketing and when discussing job candidates and employee engagement. I had a conversation with a few of them to find out why younger workers are becoming less engaged. I also wanted to find out how much less engaged younger workers have become over time.  Recent Gallup data sheds some light on this. So, let’s dive in:

Why Are Younger Workers Becoming Less Engaged In The Workplace?

There are several factors contributing to the trend of younger workers becoming less engaged at work:

Younger workers have different priorities

One top reason is the evolving expectations and values of younger generations, such as millennials and Generation Z. These workers often prioritize a sense of purpose, work-life balance, and opportunities for growth and development over traditional markers of success like salary or job stability.

Workers feel less cared for

Remote or hybrid work arrangements lead to less person-to-person relationship building. They feel less ‘cared for’ and don’t feel there is anyone looking out for their development, advancement, and overall best interests.

On a generational level, younger workers are among the first generation to see their parents downsized any time the economy hiccups. They have been taught by repeated example that corporations have little or no loyalty to their workers and they have zero expectation that their employer has any loyalty to them. Loyalty has to be shown to be earned in return.

Younger workers want their values to align with their employers

There is diminished communication of the company’s mission, values, and status. Younger workers may feel disengaged if they perceive a lack of alignment between their personal values and those of the organization. They look for employers that prioritize diversity, inclusion, sustainability, and social responsibility.

The impact of technology 

The rise of technology and remote work has blurred the boundaries between professional and personal life, making it challenging for younger workers to disconnect and recharge, leading to burnout and decreased engagement.

Existing workplace issues

Ineffective leadership, limited opportunities for advancement, and insufficient feedback and recognition can also contribute to younger workers feeling disengaged and disconnected from their work.

Less overall opportunities for learning

Cost cutting, including a reduced number of employees, has put time pressure on everyone. One of the first things sacrificed is the time invested in training and advancement. Younger workers have the most to learn so they are feeling this most acutely. There is a feeling of “If the company doesn’t care about my needs, why should I care about the company’s needs?”

Confusion about work priorities

Lack of clear priorities, communication of key performance metrics, and individual performance evaluations. Candidates will say “I’m not sure if I am concentrating on the right things. I don’t know how well I am doing the things I am doing. I don’t know if my boss thinks I am doing a good job.”

Do Engagement Trends Vary By Generation?

An employee’s level of engagement is correlated to their age and generation. Older workers tend to be more engaged, and younger workers less so. This could be the case for many reasons such as more experienced workers being in management and other higher-level roles. 

“Post-pandemic engagement trends vary widely across age generations, with younger employees feeling the most detached from their work and employers but baby boomers remaining engaged,” says Jim Harter on

Gallup Data Shows Younger Worker’s Engagement Levels Are Declining

Recent data from Gallup has found that the engagement level of younger workers is declining for millennials and Gen Z employees. Here’s what they found:

Older millennials’ engagement levels are declining

  • Engaged older millennials have declined by seven points, from 39% to 32%
  • Actively disengaged older millennials have increased by five points, from 12% to 17%. 

Gen Z engagement levels are declining

  • The younger group of millennial and Gen Z employees (born in 1989 or later) have experienced a five-point decline in engagement, from 40% to 35%
  • Actively disengaged employees have increased by one point, from 13% to 14%. 

These numbers show that employers are losing their employee’s engagement levels from two perspectives. They are losing existing engaged employees. But are also gaining actively disengaged people as well – it’s a double-whammy and this is an alarming statistic. It also helps to explain why the Average Young Worker Doesn’t Want to People Manage. If younger workers are not engaged in the work they are doing now, they are certainly not going to want to work in management. 

How Do Engagement Levels Vary Based On Age?

There is a clear relationship today between age and levels of employee engagement. As we saw in the data above, younger people are becoming less engaged. But what about older generations of workers? Gallup measures this data as well. Here is what they found about Generation X and baby boomers:

Generation X workers are becoming less engaged at a slower rate

  • Engaged Gen X employees (born between 1965 and 1979) have declined by four points, from 35% to 31%
  • Actively disengaged Gen X employees have increased by one point, from 17% to 18%

Even though Gen X workers are becoming less engaged, it’s not at the same rate as younger workers. 

Baby boomers are becoming MORE engaged

While other generations engagement levels are declining, boomers are actually becoming more engaged at work:

  • Engaged baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) have increased by two percentage points, from 34% to 36%
  • Actively disengaged baby boomers have decreased by the same amount, from 17% to 15%. 

Based on the data from Gallup, there is a clear trend – age is correlated to levels of engagement. The younger you are, the more likely you are to be disengaged at work. 

What Do Lower Engagement Levels Among Young Workers Mean For Employers?

Lower levels of engagement should sound the alarm bells for the recruitment team. It’s a sign that there’s an issue that needs to be addressed, a gap that needs to be bridged between the company and younger employees. 

“These findings suggest that younger workers progressively feel more detached from their organizations and managers and are less likely to see a future for themselves in their current roles,” says Harter.  

If people are disengaged, they are more likely to explore options outside of the company and leave if they find a better opportunity.

“And this generation of workers, especially, is looking for an employer with a purpose they can identify with. Gallup also finds that younger workers are somewhat more likely to be working in remote jobs and are increasingly more likely to be actively looking for new jobs or watching for openings.”

If you suspect that your younger employees are becoming more distant and engaged, its time to see what you can do about it. There could be an issue with your onboarding process, how you support your people, or how management connects with employees. Talk to your people and see what they value and what changes you can make to improve engagement levels not only for young people but for all employees. 


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Mark Rouse Marketing Recruiter

Mark Rouse

Mark leads Canada’s largest Marketing Communications & Media recruitment practice. Leveraging close to two decades of industry experience in the Marketing Services and Agency businesses, he has been responsible for hiring, developing, and retaining top talent as Vice-President with companies such as Young & Rubicam, Wunderman, and J. Walter Thompson.

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