6 Things We Know About How Generation Z Communicates in the Workplace
The major trends shaping how Generation Z communicates at work.
Tech-savvy, independent, and impact-focused are a few of the descriptors that come to mind when thinking about Gen Z. As this generation starts to enter the workforce in even greater droves through internship programs or entry-level positions, employers are looking to gain insights about how to relate to this new crop of employees. One major facet is understanding how Gen Z communicates in the workplace.
Research conducted by organizations such as RippleMatch, Robert Half, and Pew Research Center reveal Gen Z’s communication styles in their personal and professional lives, as well as how social and communication norms for Generation Z have evolved compared to previous generations. Read on for a few of the major trends that define how Gen Z prefers to communicate in the workplace. Some of the answers might surprise you!
1. Gen Z prefers face-to-face communication over digital.
Despite being known as “digital natives,” 72% of Gen Z workers prefer face-to-face communication while at work rather than technological alternatives like text or email. Interestingly, a survey conducted by benefits provider Yozell Associates found that Gen Z respondents were more likely than millennials to prioritize in-person communication in the workplace. Although email, Slack messages, conference calls, and other forms of digital communication are useful, it’s also important for employers to incorporate in-person meetings and opportunities for employees and managers to speak face-to-face.
2. Gen Z wants frequent feedback from their managers.
Gen Z is always looking for ways to improve, and their motivation to do well sparks another major communication trend: soliciting feedback. In fact, 60% of Generation Z want multiple check-ins from their manager during the week, with 40% desiring feedback from their boss at least once a day. A potential way to handle this is to schedule a formal one-on-one meeting between the employee and manager once a week for detailed feedback and check-ins, interspersed with shorter check-ins throughout the week. The shorter check-ins might be a few sentences in an email chain, or a brief in-person chat. By providing feedback often, employers can help employees perform to the best of their abilities and also improve retention.
3. Gen Z prides themselves on challenging the status quo.
Gen Z likes to forge their own path and be able to make a difference in their workplaces. In fact, RippleMatch data reveals that when Gen Z self-selects their main personality traits, “challenging the status quo” ranks at the top. What this means for employers is that Gen Z employees want the opportunity to share their own ideas, especially if they see ways to optimize company processes or improve the workplace overall. As a result, it might be a good idea to provide an outlet for employees to share their feedback -- in a respectful, structured way -- such as with roundtable discussions, feedback forms, and more.
4. Gen Z wants honest and direct communication.
According to a survey conducted by Robert Half, honesty and integrity are the two characteristics that Gen Z value the most in their boss. These characteristics are further reflected in Gen Z’s preferred communication style, which prioritizes authenticity and directness rather than sugar coating issues or keeping them on a “need-to-know” basis. Instead, managers should lead by example and be transparent in their communication, thereby encouraging Gen Z employees to exhibit this communication style, too.
5. Gen Z is particularly attuned to gendered language
The use of gender neutral language and nonbinary pronouns also sets Gen Z apart from previous generations. A recent report from Pew Research Center reveals that about a third of Gen Z knows someone who uses a gender neutral pronoun, and 56% of Gen Z’ers believe that forms asking about gender should include options besides “man” or “woman.” In the workplace, this means some Gen Z employees might list their preferred pronouns in the signature line of their email, or use the catch-all “they” pronoun when speaking with other people.
6. Gen Z values collaboration and teamwork, especially with peers
Finally, Gen Z might be highly independent and entrepreneurial, but they still emphasize collaboration in the workplace. According to RippleMatch data, Gen Z agrees with the statement that they are team-oriented and more extroverted than introverted. Furthermore, a survey conducted by Comparably found that 41% of Gen Z respondents would prefer to work in corporate offices, and 54% rank their coworkers as the top workplace attribute that enables them to do their best work. Providing Gen Z employees with opportunities to deepen their working relationships with peers and gain exposure to cross-team collaboration further draws upon their communication strengths and values.
Of course, not every person communicates the exact same way, but these overarching trends are worth keeping in mind for larger initiatives such as onboarding, recruiting, and implementing management processes for interns or entry-level employees.