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  • Leslie Horna

Employee Communication: Gen Z At Work

Managing internal communications for a multigenerational workforce

Move over Millennials, Gen Z has arrived in the office! Generation Z individuals are born between 1995 and 2015, compared to Gen Y (commonly known as Millennials) who were born between 1980-1994. Today's workplace also includes many Gen Xers, those born between 1965-1979, and Baby Boomers who were born between 1944-1964. How does having four unique generations in the workplace change your employee communications?

To determine how to best manage internal communications for a multigenerational workforce, let's first look at each generation's characteristics - motivations, preferences, and communication style - to get a better understanding of what each group brings to the workplace.

As the senior-most generation, baby boomers are notorious workaholics, competitive, and very team-oriented. These professionals are dedicated to winning and enjoy achieving success collaboratively. Boomers prefer direct communication from superiors and peers. They are fans of traditional media (radio, newspaper, TV, magazines) as well as frequent users of Facebook. Boomers aren't as quick to adopt other channels of social media... yet. This generation is working longer than they may have anticipated as life-spans are getting longer and retirement savings aren't as established due to financial crises they've endured earlier in their careers.

Learning from their superiors, GenXers are interested in work-life balance, diversity, and tend to be more independent workers. Career success for these professionals is achieved individually which is why they favor employers who provide opportunities for professional development. Professional self improvement will get them closer to their - and your [company] - goals! Much like Boomers, GenX prefers direct communication. They also favor Facebook and traditional media for their communications. Internal communicators will find continued success among this generation when using traditional company communication channels like the Intranet and in-office signage to alert employees of employee benefits/rewards like tuition reimbursement or time off to attend leadership workshops.

Millennials are the most-talked-about generation who are estimated now to account for half of the employed workforce. These professionals are accomplishment-oriented, competitive, and therefore seek out growth and development opportunities at work. Many millennials entered the workforce with a large amount of college debt which provides insight into their motivation around achievement. Having grown up with technology, they're also accustomed to quick response times and resources available at the click of a link. This gives way to their interest in personalized outreach and communication via social media and text messaging.

As of 2020, Gen Z makes up more than 40% of U.S. consumers

Generation Z is just now entering the workplace with the oldest employee at 25 years old. These professionals only know life with technology and despite this familiarity with a 24/7 culture, they choose to pursue work-life balance. GenZ's communication preference for social media, text messaging, and personalized outreach reflects their comfort with technology and frequent sharing. Similar to GenX, they are independent and entrepreneurial-minded workers.

Many great ideas have gotten lost in translation. How we communicate what we’re thinking and feeling is a crucial part of working with others. We've all seen the decline in face-to-face conversations and even phone calls are taboo to some. Workplaces are no different, but they need to maintain a strong mix of communication channels. Younger generations prefer email and text messaging, while older generations may value in-person meetings and conference calls. As expert communicators, we know that communicating with someone in their preferred channel increases their engagement and strengthens our relationship with them. While it may not be possible to communicate each message on every channel that an employee prefers, relying on one channel of communication (i.e. email) is also not good. With varying degrees of comfort and preference among a multigenerational workforce, it's best for companies to use a variety of platforms and tactics to connect with employees. A few ideas to catch the eyes/ears of audiences in their element:

  • Team/Department Facebook Group

  • Monthly Town Hall Meeting

  • QR Codes

  • Workplace Elevator Signage

  • Company Podcast

  • Break-room/Cafeteria Vending Machine Giveaway/Advertising

  • 1-1 Meeting with Supervisor

  • Pulse Surveys/Polls

In addition to communicating with employees, internal communicators may host training, presentations, and team-building and employee recognition events. It's important for communicators to understand the learning and communication preferences of employees in order to share company information in the best way possible. That will improve the likelihood that employees will retain and use the information. For example, according to LinkedIn's 2020 Trends To Watch, Gen Z's interest in workplace training is a top factor when considering a new job, for 36 percent of them! They may prefer an online course or webinar whereas another generation may prefer attending a conference, participating in a game, or attending a team presentation to gather the information.

Almost all work environments require employees to collaborate. Many project teams, advisory committees, or departments will include employees of various ages, job titles, and longevity with the company. Remember that boomers and GenXers prefer to work individually, while millennials and GenZers enjoy collaboration. When collaborating, colleagues should note that younger generations commonly seek feedback, mentoring, and praise from workplace leadership. The intersection of these teamwork styles can cause friction, making it important for internal communications executives to develop rules of order or office etiquette for these scenarios.

Corporate Trainer Dana Brownlee states it well, “The solution is on both ends. Leaders need to realize how important that acknowledgment is, but the younger generations need to realize they're not going to get an IV drip of praise.”

While older generations may stay with a company for 20+ years, younger generations seek out opportunities where a company's culture and purpose align with their personal values. Older generations tend to prefer security, where younger generations look at their profession as an extension of their self-expression. Internal communicators can engage employees in shaping the company culture and encourage participation in company trainings, discussions, and planning. This may result in the Internal Communications department creating a Service Program where employees are recognized with an award for their years of service and employee celebrations are planned to align with employee Service-driven milestones. This touches on the values of all generations and strengthens commitment to the company mission.

As today's workforce becomes more diverse, the role of company internal communicators is essential. Employees are said to be as, if not MORE, important that customers in terms of a company's long-term success. Internal communicators need to set the right strategies, develop an integrated process, and gather the best tools and resources to be successful. To learn more about how C. Change Consulting can support your internal communication needs, schedule a consultation.

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