4 Key Engagement Levels for Gen Y

By July 8, 2013Millennial

Engagement is important for any generation. Gen Y has a real opportunity to make engagement sing a new song of purpose. It is more than just civic, charitable, or political engagement though. While each is important, there may be an added view or, at least, multiple layers to engage.

Consider these four engagement levels:

Levels of Engagement - Gen YSelf Engagement: Self engagement means learning. It means knowing oneself. It is about defining purpose and then living it, leading with it.

Take note from Danny Rubin: “Treat every day of your life as a master’s degree.”

Work Engagement: Work engagement means understanding the industry, knowing the organization, finding your mentors, and making your work shine. It is that simple. It won’t just happen though. You need to put in the time and effort to learn, embrace, and become recognized for the work you do. It is also important to be recognized for how you work with others, too.

Take note from Luke Roland: “I should have found out their story instead of telling mine, I should have spent time with them in other contexts, I should had given to them without expecting something in return….”

Community Engagement: Community engagement means making a difference where you live or in places where you wouldn’t necessarily want to live. Community starts nearby but it can extend beyond your immediate borders. Extending is good. Don’t lose sight of people in your sight.

Take note from Megan Emme: “The earlier you start to look for things to get involved with, the more time you allow yourself to grow.”

Future Engagement: Future engagement means doing something today that will be felt 10 or 20 years from now. It is about making choices and taking actions that ripple forward into the future.

Take note from Kelly Silay: “Now is the time to brush up on our understanding of child development and uncover best practices in working with children and youth by utilizing current research.”

Engagement translates to promise.

Engagement is a formal promise. It is how the word began. It is a correct way to consider it.

Engagement is a promise to do something as well as a commitment to follow through. Engagement cannot happen at one level only. It is too limiting in nature. Our nature is multidimensional, as should be our engagement practices.

And that is the point. Engagement needs to be, well, engaged at many levels. Without engagement at multiple levels, we become flimsy in developing and making an impact. We need to fire on all cylinders. Effective leading and living requires firing on all levels to power engagement to really make a difference.

Raise your engagement levels up to include self, work, community, and future. Each level will deliver greater purpose in all that you do.

Where should engagement take place? What levels would you add?

Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz is one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Trustworthy Business and highlighted as one of the Leaders to Watch in 2015 by the American Management Association. He also is the author of Activate Leadership: Aspen Truths to Empower Millennial Leaders. Jon serves as vice president of marketing at Corepoint Health. Outside of his professional life, Jon brings together a community to inspire Millennial leaders and close the gap between two generations of leaders.
Jon Mertz
Jon Mertz

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  • […] Mertz shares 4 Engagement Levels for Gen Y from his Blog, Thin Difference.  Engagement needs to be multidimensional. To deliver greater […]

  • Dr. Christi Hegstad says:


    Fantastic post! Most of my work/research is in the area of engagement, and I fully agree with you that when we “fire on all cylinders,” we live, work, and connect so much better. I love how the four levels in your model feed on each other, too: when you’re connected to your own purpose, you can let that shine through your work, which impacts your community (and beyond), and creates a stronger future for all.

    Thank you for connecting these dots so succinctly!

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Dr. Hegstad for your insights and feedback. It is challenging to fire on all there cylinders at times, but we need to continue to work toward each. It is vital to living and leading fully. Your insights from your work/research would be welcomed here, if you are ever interested in writing a guest post. Appreciate all the great work you do! Jon

  • Excellent post! These levels of engagement capture well the many aspects of life with which my college students struggle. (Commonly heard in my office: “I need to do things that are going to matter in the long, but still I need to help my family right now, and what about me? I need some time and space for myself,
    too! Oh, and I have no idea what to do with my life! Eek!”) Having names to label and organize these domains will help me advise them and reduce their sense of being overwhelmed. Thank you!

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Rebecca! I like your real life perspective because that is exactly what happens…. we get pulled and tugged and lose perspective. I haven’t received some good insights on this post so more needs to be added. A continuation, at some point. Thanks for your insights and the work you do! Jon

  • Thanks for this great model, Jon. Depending on someone’s personality, one or more of these levels may be missed. For instance, as a future-oriented person, I’m always thinking about future implications of current planning or action. But for some, it may not come so naturally. Community engagement beyond my close-knit circle doesn’t come naturally to me, though social media has dramatically changed that. Now that I have substantially greater demand on my time in my work life, I’m finding it challenging to keep up the level of community engagement I was able to invest in previously. In contemplating your model, I wonder if you may offer guidance on how to achieve balance and tradeoffs when we can’t fire up all 4 cylinders equally? Just a thought, Jon. Thanks again.

    • Jon M says:

      Thanks, Alice, for your thoughtful comments. It is a challenge to fire on all 4 levels of engagement. I have received some interesting comments on this so another post in the future seems likely. Addressing the balance as well as the types of engagement may come together to enhance the model.

      This has spurred some good thoughts so more work to do! Thanks! Jon

  • Lalita says:

    Good post Jon. I like the way you have looked at engagement at all levels – present in self, work and community and the future. Engagement as you have mentioned goes beyond the “me” and only my way matters.

    Engagement at all levels, generations, age and gender counts.

    • Jon M says:

      Agree, Lalita. Engagement at all levels definitely counts. Another area mentioned in the Facebook conversation was family. This is another key engagement area, which can create great challenges and opportunities. Thanks for your comment and insights! Jon

  • Luke Roland says:

    Something I need to work on is future engagement. I can get so caught up in what is happening right now that I haven’t spend much time processing my decisions that will affect me and others in the long term.

    • Jon M says:

      It is so easy to get caught up in the now, Luke. I know I am guilty of it, too, and need to do a better job of engaging in this area more. Thanks! Jon

  • Hiten Vyas says:

    Hi Jon,

    The Levels of Engagement model you have described in your article is a very powerful and practical one. I’ve just looked over it again a couple of times and I can definitely see how engagement in one area can feed into other. In fact, I think one needs to engage in each segment so as truly be effective in creating lasting change and planning change for the future.

    Thank you.

    • Jon M says:

      Thank you, Hiten. I agree that engagement needs to happen at each level. It is what will ensure a life full of purpose as well as a way to lead full of purpose. Appreciate your voice in the conversation! Jon

  • OneGR8Life.com says:

    “Engagement is a promise to do something as well as a commitment to follow through.” – Jon this is a very critical statement in understand the nature of your outlined 4 engagement levels and the influential nature of being engaged. It is one thing to invite yourself to the engagement party, but you must Follow through; just make sure that you are willing to bring something with you… At any level, engaged is measured by what you are willing to leave behind.

    • Jon M says:

      So true. Our follow through on commitments made or our promises is essential to making engagement happen in the right way and at all levels. We need to engage to leave a positive wake in our path. Thank you!

  • Terri Klass says:

    You make some great points here, Jon on the importance of engagement at different levels. In our work worlds, we don’t often take the time to get to know other people’s passions and strengths. When we stop worrying about promoting ourselves, we can really grow as leaders by learning new things from those around us. Thanks for this great post!

    • Jon M says:

      Agree, Terri. We need to shift our focus and empathy plays a key role in engagement across the different levels. Together, we can engage more fruitfully! Thanks! Jon

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