Just when you’ve finally figured out millennials, along comes Generation Z. They’re entering the workforce with youthful ambition. But as a generation brought up with smartphones in a less personal world of communication, how do older leaders connect with them?

Many leaders are tempted to treat millennials and Gen Zers the same, but there are important distinctions. As an infographic from EmployeeChannel shows, there are generational differences in communication. For example, both Gen Zers and millennials list communication as the most important skill for a leader to have in the 2016 Randstad and Future Workplace survey. Yet, Gen Zers define good communication differently.

Leaders need to understand these differences to reach this new working generation. This begins with knowing their expectations about communication.

Without understanding, there will be confusion in the workplace. Employees won’t have access to the information they need and leaders will be cut off from employees’ fresh ideas.

To avoid this break down, here are four things you need to know to effectively communicate with Generation Z.

Embrace mobile communications

Generation Z is the first generation to be born into a cellular world. Many millennials can remember what it was like to live without a mobile phone. Gen Z does not. Because of this, mobile communication is second nature to them.

Whenever possible, take advantage of communication platforms that are mobile-friendly. Since there are so many options available, employees can conduct many aspects of communication via a mobile device.

Aside from chat platforms, consider taking these modes of communication mobile:

  • Providing employees with performance feedback
  • Sharing information about employee benefits
  • Recognizing employees’ achievements
  • Tracking hours and requested time off
  • Receiving employee feedback

Generation Z can process the information they need to succeed with these tools.

Don’t underestimate in-person communication

Despite being digital natives, the aforementioned Randstad and Future Workplace survey found that 39 percent of Generation Z say in-person communication is the most effective form. This means they don’t want to communicate everything through text or email.Make sure you’re giving younger employees quality face time. Take time to get to know them, as well as discuss work in person.

One good habit to create is checking in with employees face-to-face. This includes going to their desk instead of emailing them to check up on projects, regular one-on-one performance conversations, and taking the time to sit down with each member of Generation Z and talk about how you’re feeling about their work. This is also a great time to find out what challenges they’re facing so you can work together to find a solution.

Know it’s a two-way street

Generation Z doesn’t just want to be talked at. According to the Randstad and Future Workplace survey, 51 percent of Generation Z said having a leader who listens to and values their opinions allows them to do their best work.

They want the opportunity to share their ideas so they can be a more integral part of the team. Many young professionals may not feel comfortable speaking up since they’re new to the workforce.

During brainstorming sessions, ask for their input. Question them about what they think or feel about a project so they can see you value their voice. Also, make it clear there are channels in place for them to come to you.

If there’s an issue, like workplace bullying or sexual harassment, make sure Generation Z knows how to report it. Let them know you want the office to be a safe place, so they can feel comfortable communicating distressing situations.

Learn from mistakes with millennials

Millennials and Generation Z are different, but leaders can still learn from the mistakes they made with the older generation. For example, the Randstad and Future Workplace survey asked millennials who are now managers what aspects of leadership their education didn’t prepare them for. Twenty-nine percent said they weren’t ready to deal with conflict resolution.

To fix this problem, there are two things to address. First, young people need to learn how to communicate in way that doesn’t lead to conflict. This involves training on everything from active listening to diversity and inclusion tactics. With this knowledge, Gen Zers can communicate with their co-workers in an understanding way.

Conflict, however, isn’t always avoidable. Younger employees should know how to talk through issues when a negative situation arises. Run role playing scenarios, with you acting as a mediator, to model and teach the skills they need to learn. Then, once Generation Z takes on manager roles, they can handle conflict between their own employees.

Like all generations, Generation Z has its own defining characteristics. Leaders need to understand how these traits impact their communication preferences. By following these tips, you can better reach your youngest and rising employees.

Do you have some other tricks that help to communicate with Generation Z?

Let us know what kind of policies you’ve implemented or approaches you take to better communicate with Generation Z in the comments below.


About the author

Waldorf, MD. based Heather R. Huhman is a career expert, experienced hiring manager and president of
Come Recommended, a content-marketing and digital-PR consultancy for job-search and human-resources technologies.

She is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle. Follow her on Twitter.