How to Engage Your Millennial and Gen Z Contact Center Agents

By Jen Jackson | April 8, 2019

Every generation comes with its own preferences and habits. Millennials and Gen Z are no different.

For years, contact center agents were largely run by Baby Boomer and Gen X agents. Accordingly, processes were created to best suit them. However, as many contact center managers know, those same processes may not work for their Millennial (born between 1981 and 1996) and Gen Z (born in 1997 and later) counterparts.

These two generations now make up a growing proportion of contact center agents. Millennials, for example, are almost 70% of the contact center workforce, according to SmartCustomerService.com. Research suggests they’re also the agents who are least happy with their jobs and most likely to leave. In fact, the second annual Aspect Agent Experience Index survey revealed 45% of Generation Z and Millennials say they plan to resign from their current job, creating huge potential financial exposure for most contact centers since this is often their single largest expense.

According to the Aspect Agent Experience Index survey, here’s what drives the restlessness:

  • 83% of these agents want the ability to move up in their organization, yet only 58% say their employer provides the opportunity to do so.
  • 91% want to feel like a valued member of their team, but only 58% work in a customer service environment that facilitates that type of collaboration.
  • 80% say using up-to-date customer service software is critical to their engagement, but only 35% say it is available to them.
  • 76% of Millennials report they’re more satisfied when working within a creative, inclusive work culture. Yet, only 28% feel the companies they work for make full use of their skills.

As a contact center leader, what can you do to manage Millennial and Gen Z agents in a way that keeps them engaged and, ultimately, happily working at your contact center for the long-term?

Enable Decision-Making

One way to foster a creative and inclusive work culture is to include Millennials and Gen Z in decision-making. Ask for and collect their ideas and encourage their input when making decisions. Be careful about communicating decisions that “come from the top.” Hold regular brainstorming and feedback sessions, and promote incentive and reward programs for ideas that are successfully implemented. These types of practices indicate genuine interest in their feedback.

Leverage Their Vast Multi-Tasking Skills

One of the biggest differences between Baby Boomers/Gen X and Millennials/Gen Z is technology. Baby Boomers and Gen X had to learn today’s technologies as adults. Millennials and Gen Z grew up in the world of smartphones and free WiFi. As a result, Millennials and Gen Z are more comfortable toggling between different applications and browser windows even while interacting with others—valuable skills for contact center agents.

This ease with technology creates opportunities for contact centers to implement training and work processes that utilize advanced technologies in a multitasking environment, which increases work efficiencies and productivity.

Challenge with Stretch Assignments

Millennials and Gen Z agents are more engaged when they’re challenged. Seventy-three percent of the Aspect Agent Experience Index survey respondents say they’re more satisfied and committed to their jobs if they’re handling complex questions and tasks. That’s higher than any other demographic.

For contact center managers, that means giving Millennials and Gen Z agents the training they need to handle complicated interactions and monitoring their job satisfaction levels to be sure they’re well-matched to increasingly challenging work. Managers need to empower their agents to push past their comfort zones and encourage them to take on tasks that require them to learn new skills and grow.

Give Actionable Feedback

Gen Z agents appreciate having consistent, immediate and actionable feedback—even more than Millennials. They like to know how they’re performing compared to their past results and their peers.

In fact, research from the Center for Generational Kinetics found that one in five members of Gen Z say they need feedback daily, or several times a day, in order to stay with an employer. Consequently, contact center solutions that implement gamification challenges that allow agents to track their goals and performance work well with this group.

Bridge the Gap Between Generations

Of course, your contact center can’t cater to the needs and preferences of one generation of employees while excluding another. You need to bridge gaps among different groups. Acclimate younger generations to your existing workforce culture through videos, role-playing and even interactive games.

Soft skills are also important. Teach them what they’ll need to better understand and interact with their colleagues and customers. And demonstrate how they can advocate for themselves and approach their supervisors, a skill they’ll need for the rest of their career.

Download the eBook

Empowering contact center agents (regardless of the generation) is only one of the seven habits that successful contact center leaders need to grow and succeed. Download a free copy of the Serenova e-book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Content Center Leadersto learn about the other six habits and take the next step in becoming a well-rounded contact center leader.


Jen Jackson is Vice President of Customer Success at Serenova, where she leads the global team dedicated to helping customers achieve quantifiable business outcomes and exceptional customer experiences. Her career includes deep contact center experience and leadership roles at Dell, as well as emerging companies like Kinnser Software (now WellSky) and Neverfail Group. Jen is known for a people-first philosophy of leadership aligned with today's workforce and technology.