If you’re old enough to have watched the PBS children’s TV show, “Zoom” you may smile at the moniker zoomers, used to describe Gen Z workers, those individuals born between 1997 to mid-2000s as defined by the Pew Research Center.
This generation of workers has much in common with the singing and dancing TV kids who made their own fun and worked together to solve problems. They grew up with the Internet in the palm of their hands. They are true digital natives with media savvy and the ability to educate themselves on anything from chemistry to crochet techniques.
Stanford University researcher Roberta Katz has this to say about Zoomers, “a typical Gen Zer is a self-driver who deeply cares about others, strives for a diverse community, is highly collaborative and social, values flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership, and, while dismayed about inherited issues like climate change, has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”
Gen Z communication advice
Gen Z, however, is different from their older millennial siblings, Gen X parents and baby boomer grandparents. With Gen Z expected to make up 30% of the workforce by 2030, learning to communicate with these newcomers, and helping teams to integrate may take some guidance from HR professionals.
Gen Z prefers texting over other forms of communication
Think Slack channels and chat features in MS Teams. But not all texts are created equal. A Gen Z text may come across as informal without punctuation and in a series of texts, instead of one long block of words. They also expect a quick, direct reply. Gone are the days of “I’ll think about this email and send a reply after lunch.”
This doesn’t mean they won’t respond to email and should be excused from writing with punctuation. However, technology can shorten the communication divide in a day-to-day communication scenario, especially in a remote working environment.
Gen Z seems to have the ability to talk in pictures and emojis are communication shortcuts. Not everyone has to embrace them. But it’s always helpful to learn a new language. If an unknown emoji comes with a text, ask or head to emojipedia.org.
Appreciates one-to-one communication
They may appear to only engage with their technology, but they also appreciate one-to-one communication. Take time to provide meaningful feedback, mentoring and directions. This is important for any generation at work in a remote environment.
Stress and anxiety
They feel a lot of stress and anxiety. Forty-six percent of Gen Z report chronic stress and anxiety, with higher numbers in women (53%). With their whole careers ahead of them, it may be difficult for older managers to relate to Gen Z workers. This is the generation that grew up in the great recession, has never known a time without regular school shooter and lockdown drills, spent up to two years of their lives at home with online school due to COVID-19, and came of age during monumental changes in social justice with the Me Too and Black Lives Matter movement.
Mental health issues and signs of burnout are important to watch for in Gen Z workers. HR managers don’t need to become therapists. However, these workers want their employers to take mental health seriously. They want flexibility, empathy and transparency.
Today’s newest workers are tomorrow’s leaders. And like all generations before them, they will change the world. Change is hard for everyone but understanding how to move from boomers to zoomers can grow creative partnerships and new solutions that benefit everyone in the workplace.