Gen Z is coming – should Internal Communications panic?

Internal Communications

Gen Z is coming – should Internal Communications panic?

Jonathan Davies


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Millennials are old hat now. They’ve been analyzed to death, pages upon pages dedicated to their every fault and whim, their penchant for over-sharing, their alleged selfishness, searches for meaning, for how to be #blessed.

But Internal Communications teams have spent the last decade adjusting to the need for short, sharp messaging delivered over a range of mediums to make sure their Millennial employees don’t switch off and remain engaged. Are those same Internal Communications teams ready for the next wave, with its unique style and needs?

Look out, world: Generation Z is now old enough to work for you. Do not panic; do not throw your strategy out the window.

In its comprehensive report, Gen Z: A Generation to Look Up To, Canadian people performance company n-gen writes: “The data suggests they will have a work ethic and loyalty similar to the Baby Boomers; the independence of the Gen Xers; and the tech savviness and fluid lifestyle of the Millennials. They will combine these traits into a unique hybrid that powers them forward to their distinctive brand of happiness...

“For this generation, work is more than just a paycheque. Money and security are key drivers for them, but so is employment where they can grow, develop and make a positive contribution.”

These guys are more familiar than you think, and they’re here not to throw a spanner in the works, but to positively influence your company culture.

The kids are alright

“From drinking less to ignoring gender stereotypes and expecting companies to display a high level of social responsibility, Generation Z are truly distinctive from their Millennials (Generation Y) predecessors,” writes branding agency StoryScience in its report, The Science of Generation Z Consumers. “They are not just ‘Millennials on steroids’. They are Generation Z and they are the first true digital natives who have a fresh take on societal conventions that previous generations take for granted.”

The report calls Generation Z “social norm-breaking”, and states they are “atavistic, displaying behaviours more similar to their grandparents than Millennials.” They have “the work ethic of a past era” because they were born in an unsettled time, having seen unemployment, recession, Trump and Brexit as an everyday norm.

Looking at that through the eye of branding, StoryScience says it’s the purpose-driven, sustainable brands that will capture the hearts and minds of Generation Z; that Generation Z’s high expectations for brands include practicality, community, philanthropy, inclusivity, credibility and transparency. They crave realness, and respond to authenticity.

They know what they want, and it’s generally something for the greater good. Companies looking to attract Generation Z to their workforce will need to harness that energy, that social justice and belief that diversity is the norm, and showcase how the company culture exemplifies everything Generation Z is looking for – then use technology such as Google collaboration tools and a Google intranet to walk the talk.

Harness technology to enable flexibility

This is the digital-first generation, the one that’s always-on and always glued to their mobile phones. They love technology; it flows through their digitized veins. Just look at their most desirable employers - Google, Amazon and Apple are in the top six - and the fact 75% of high school students having indicated an interest in STEM fields. Only 2% of Generation Z don’t own a smartphone; 85% of them learn about new products via social media. Nearly half of the generation reports spending 10 hours on devices every single day.

If you’re not operating in a highly digital workplace, Generation Z will simply pass you by as they head towards your more technologically-advanced competitors.

If you want to keep Generation Z engaged, you’ll need to embed flexible technologies into your work practices. Enhance real-time collaboration with Google team collaboration tools, backed up by a mobile app that keeps your Gen Z employee one tap away from work at all times. Let them chat with colleagues from wherever they are, be it through Google Chat or a Google Workspace integration like Slack.

But more than that, you’ll need to cater for the things Generation Z holds dear. And luckily, those things are bread and butter for Internal Communications teams: showcasing a true company purpose that isn’t just lip service; highlighting strong and stable company values; and exhibiting authenticity at every turn. An Internal Communications strategy that blows wind or smacks of scripted messaging just will not work here; they’ll smell it a mile away and automatically disengaged while making fun of you on Snapchat.

Show purpose

What they need

Generation Z believe themselves to be social justice-minded, says Business Insider, while n-gen says they are “realistically optimistic”. They want to work for a company that stands for something, that does some good in the world

How to do it

Showcase your company’s mission statement and brand purpose heavily in your Google intranet. Make sure your purpose flows through all you do, from enabling better productivity and work practices, to making a difference in the world. Run articles about charity days – better yet, use Channels to ask for input on how the company can raise quality of life and support causes.

Values matter

What they need

Generation Z is ready to be loyal to your company, but you need to support them by showing the company is worth that loyalty.

How to do it

We’ve written before about Google Workspace's integrations and tools that can help to execute the most common core values. From encouraging transparency through tracking analytics in Google Sheets, to encouraging 360-degree feedback through Impraise, to encouraging accountability and responsibility through Asana, and of course through sharing knowledge and communicating over a social intranet, your company can truly “live” its values and set a great example for the youngsters just starting out.

Be authentic

What they need

This is the generation that grew up in the era of #fakenews; they will check sources and challenge claims. They are attracted to leaders with vision, passion and purpose, and put off by smarmy sales messaging.

How to do it

Scripted corporate messaging that smacks of inauthenticity will not fly. Instead, get your leaders to talk off the cuff – or, if that’s just not on the cards (let’s face it, not every corporate leader is a born orator), get an Internal Communications manager to interview them and ghostwrite in their natural style. Be transparent, and don’t gloss it over when something isn’t going right. Every generation will appreciate BS-free approach to Internal Communications.

Involve them and encourage curiosity

What they need

Generation Z has seen the damage done by previous generations, and they’re determined to make things right. That means they aren’t self-involved kids; they want to be part of the solution. They want to be involved, to feel their input is valued and that they’re taken seriously.

How to do it

“Gen Z was raised to be curious, they want to be part of the solution and make a difference,” writes Debby Carreau in Entrepreneur. “The insights garnered from engagement are what facilitate innovation. Their contribution may improve a product line, make a process more efficient, or change the culture of your organization in a meaningful way. Above all else, when an organization values curiosity, it creates a positive feedback loop which encourages further idea sharing and reinforces that employees are heard and appreciated.”

And how do you do this? Not on Karen’s old Sharepoint network. To enable real-time collaboration and communications, a Google intranet and Google team collaboration tools are a must.

Using a Google Workspace intranet to engage and retain Generation Z

Generation Z have grown up being connected, safe in the knowledge they can talk to anyone anywhere in the world at a moment’s notice. They expect everything in their lives to be online. To attract the brightest young talent - talent that is more loyal and seeks more long-term relationships than their predecessors, the Millennials - you need to make sure your workplace operations are as always-on as they are.

These guys are “fast processors of information, adept at sifting through what is relevant and what appeals”, according to The Bookseller. They have never known a fact they couldn’t Google, and they’ll expect quick and easy answers at the click of a finger (or mouse). Google collaboration tools and a Google intranet provide the perfect vehicle for this constant connectedness. It’s time to re-write the rules of engagement for the future of work and life.

By moving to the cloud and enabling real-time collaboration across offices, cities and countries, your organization takes a step into 21st century work practices. And by embracing the future of Internal Communications and team collaboration, you become ready for the positive impact Generation Z will have on your company’s culture, productivity, and ultimately its bottom line.