Communicating with Generation Z in the Workplace

Maithili Jha


in Employee Engagement

We’ve been debating the qualities that Millennials desire in the workplace for over a decade now. Generation Z is often associated with its generational predecessors, but it’s important not to assume that Gen Z-ers possess the same needs and desires!

The environment that Gen Z was born into, has led to generation-specific traits that reflect their unique expectations and attitudes toward their jobs.

Granted, it’s too early to have enough evidence on what motivates, engages, and satisfies this new segment of the workforce. At this stage, we need to constantly test, track, and measure their responses to understand better what they truly value.

Read on to find out about how to effectively communicate with the members of Generation Z who work with you to keep employee engagement levels high.

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Who is Generation Z?

For those who are unsure, Generation Z, Generation, or Post-Millennials – describes a demographic of people born between 1997 and 2015. This means that the oldest members are in their early 20s and ready to work. This generation of digital natives is comprised of individuals born primarily to Gen-Xers. Some key characteristics that have been associated with Generation Z are financial prudence, a need for autonomy, open-mindedness, competitiveness, and strong digital roots.

How Does Generation Z Communicate

In-person communication

Generation Z is the first generation to grow up completely immersed in digital technology and online communication. Therefore, we tend to assume that Gen Z employees will prefer screen time over face-to-face interactions. Their Millennial predecessors pioneered much of the business communication technology we use today and continue to push their companies towards a more tech-savvy future. The introduction of platforms like Slack, Zoom, Skype, Trello and more have drastically changed how people interact in the workplace.

Despite the rise of these virtual technologies, Generation Z employees still seem to prefer in-person communication at work.

In fact, 72% of Generation Z prefer in-person communication in the workplace.


These digital natives are so used to online communication, they tend to place a higher value on face-to-face interactions. In fact, 40% of them expect daily interactions with their boss or else they feel like something might be wrong.

Further, while the members of Generation Z are used to constant online communication, they are not yet used to online professional communication. It may be harder for them to comprehend and convey certain tones or expectations.

This is not to say that Generation Z prefers in-person communication all the time. It depends.

When it comes to having difficult conversations, 75% of Generation Z stated they would rather have them over text than on the phone. Therefore, as an employer, it’s important to understand which form of communication best suits the context.

A good start would be by simply asking your employees about their communications preferences. This need not be a lengthy exercise and can be done quickly and easily using pulse surveys.

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Digital communication

That being said, there’s certainly no way to avoid digital communication in this day and age.

The key is to utilize digital communication wisely. Decide what to discuss during in-person meetings and what can be communicated via a digital newsletter.

Nearly half of Generation Z spends a whopping 10 hours a day online. The rest spend at least 1 hour connected online daily. Digital communication – especially on mobile devices – is central to how Gen Z communicates. Interestingly, Generation Z is big on emails too. 58% of Gen Zers say they check their emails frequently every day. This is an opportunity for internal communicators to create beautiful and engaging employee newsletters to connect with a new segment of the workforce.

When we engage with customers online, we tend to track the success rates of our digital tactics. We look to see what content held their attention the longest. We take note of the calls to action that prompted real follow-through.

Why not do the same with our own employees?

The most useful feature of digital internal communication is the ability to track and measure the effectiveness of your communication.

If you want to get a sense of the success rates of your internal digital communication, use a platform that allows you to create enticing newsletters and track employee engagement. That way, you know what’s working for your Gen Z employees and what isn’t.

You can also target digital communications to your Gen Z employees by using custom email lists. Create a custom email list of your employees based on their birth dates so you can send them content specifically relevant to them.

With ContactMonkey’s List Management feature, you can easily create your own custom email lists without needing IT. Lists created using ContactMonkey integrate with your Human Resource Information System (HRIS) like Workday and ADP, as well as Azure Active Directory, so they’ll update automatically as employees join and leave your organization.

What Motivates Generation Z in the Workplace

Open and honest communication

Honesty and integrity are qualities that a large percentage of Generation Z seeks from its bosses. These sound like traits that almost anyone would value in their supervisors – but for Generation Z – not possessing these qualities might be a deal-breaker. More than any other generation, this group of individuals expects complete transparency in terms of pay, benefits, internal issues, and decisions. Nearly two-thirds of Gen Zers and Millennials expect to know their CEO’s compensation.

Exposure of wrongdoings is a big part of the online culture Generation Z grew up in and it’s important to stay ahead of any issues that may occur. Restricting internal issues and information to top-tier management, while keeping new employees in the dark is no longer an option.

The best way to gain the trust of Generation Z is to be open and transparent. Your young employees will trust that you are transparent if you communicate with honesty. Their expectations of work go beyond executing orders of senior management. Like Millennials, these employees want to be involved in the decisions and processes of a company.

In other words, if a Generation Z employee makes a mistake, be forward about it. Sugar-coating or hedging isn’t going to get you very far. More than 80% of Gen Z believe that embracing failure on a project will enable them to innovate and grow.

There may be some topics that seem strange to broach, especially if they weren’t part of the old business protocol. For example, discussions of money and even terminations were something to avoid in the past. However, you may want to adopt a new business protocol that involves ensuring that all of your employees are on the same page.

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Equality and knowledge sharing

Open and honest communication goes both ways. Generation Z also appreciates being encouraged to express their opinions openly and be respected for them.

Generation Z worries that their older coworkers may not respect them because of their age. Ageism is a term that refers to the negative treatment or denial of opportunities due to someone’s age.

It’s natural to expect that newer employees have less know-how than those who have years of experience. You can address these discrepancies by providing proper training and encouraging your young employees to learn new skills. The key is to open doors and allow young employees to learn by doing, not just watching and waiting for their turn.

A defining characteristic of individuals from Generation Z, is the value they put on autonomy. They are entrepreneurial in nature and driven by a desire to learn and grow in their careers.

Upward mobility hasn’t been easy for Millennials. Generation Z has grown up watching their predecessors struggle through a recession that limited their opportunities. For that reason, members of Generation Z in the workplace may be resistant to traditional hierarchies.

That’s not to say that they won’t take direction from superiors. Instead, they desire the opportunity to share their own ideas regardless of their status within the company.

Use digital employee surveys and allow for employee feedback in your internal communication. Anonymous feedback will give all of your employees a chance to share their opinions without the threat of discrimination.

In addition to anonymous feedback, hold meetings or one-on-one sessions for idea-sharing. That way, if a young employee shares an idea that revolutionizes your company, they’ll receive credit!

Regular and constructive feedback

We know that Generation Z is ambitious, competitive, and independent. These employees are invested in learning, proving their worth, and growing – and they expect their managers to help them do so.

In fact, 60% of Generation Z-ers expect multiple touchpoints with their supervisors weekly – or even daily.

Desiring regular feedback isn’t necessarily a trait specific to Generation Z. Instead, it’s a trait that is typical of most young employees.

When you’re hiring people between the ages of 18 and 24, there’s a good chance that you are their first employer. Generation Z employees are looking to make real contributions.

Make sure you provide young employees with regular feedback whether they’re performing well or not. This will help them to settle into the workplace more comfortably and set clear expectations.  Over time, they may not need as much feedback as they adjust to the parameters of the job.

What Kind of Content Engages Generation Z Employees

Bite-sized content

Studies show that Generation Z has an average attention span of 8 seconds. Born in the world of instant gratification, short-form videos, and information overload – it is no wonder that snackable content is the way forward when communicating with these digital natives.

Further, an estimated 98% of Generation Z owns a smartphone – the device that lends itself best to light, short-form content. However, condensing information into relevant, easy-to-digest and engaging content is no easy feat. Using a platform that allows you to track and measure the effectiveness of your communication is the great way to understand what kind of content is engaging your Generation Z workforce and what isn’t.

If you’re struggling to create unique content for your Gen Z audience, you can save time and effort by using ContactMonkey’s OpenAI ChatGPT integration. Simply write a prompt describing the content you’d like, generate sample text, and edit the text according to your specific needs.

Video content

Visual culture is rising fast – especially among Generation Z. The “smartphone generation” has grown up with Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. 89% of Gen Z uses YouTube, 74% uses Instagram, and 69% uses Snapchat every week. 70% of Generation Zers spend over three hours watching videos online daily. A Cisco report states that by 2022, 82% of internet traffic globally will come from video content. It is clear that video needs to be part of your internal communications strategy. But, how can you make sure your video content effectively engages your Gen Z employees? Here are some useful examples of how to use video for internal communications.

Want to take your video content to a whole new level? Learn how you can use virtual reality in your corporate communications.

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In conclusion

We’re seeing Generation Z in the workplace in rising numbers. It’s important that we figure out how to communicate with them and ensure that they feel like valued members of the workforce. A valued employee is a productive employee!

Key factors to take into account when creating a communication plan for your Generation Z employees:

  1. Use a tactful combination of digital and in-person communication – depending on the context.
  2. Regular face-time is key to making them feel involved and recognized.
  3. Give honest, sincere feedback – regularly!
  4. Keep them involved and updated on business decisions and developments. They want to be seen as equal contributors.
  5. Bite-sized communication is an effective tool to capture their attention.
  6. Videos are an essential part of an engaging content strategy.

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Interested in boosting your digital internal communications? Consider utilizing ContactMonkey’s email services! Don’t just take our word for it. Sign up for a free demo today and give it a test run yourself! 

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