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With Generation Z (born between mid-1990s to early 2000s) entering the workforce, the future of work is being shaped by digital natives. If you’re involved in running a frontline workforce, you’re in luck as Generation Z is perfectly suited as a partner in getting things done. Whereas Millennials are characterized as idealistic and non-traditional in their career paths, Generation Z is pragmatic and corporately competitive. But get ready for Millennials and Generation Z to bring their technological preferences to work - which is why speaking their language is critical in harnessing the power of these generations.
How technological preferences differ between Millennials and Generation Z
While Millennials prefer social platforms like Facebook and Instagram, Generation Z prefers Snapchat and Instagram. Generation Z’s preference for platforms like Snapchat demonstrates how they’re not only reinforcing the current appetite for visual and interactive content, but magnifying it. As smartphones are the vehicle through which such high volumes of interactive content can be generated and shared, Generation Z spends the largest amount of time on their mobile devices, coming in at 15.4 hours a week. Millennials, however, spend the most time on their computers, at an average of 16.4 hours a week. While Millennials are happy enough to engage online from behind a laptop, Generation Z irrefutably relies on their phones to express themselves.
Leveraging the mobile’s microphone and cameras to record, edit and transmit themselves to their networks, Generation Z empowers themselves through mobile-generated content. With an entire generation generating their own content, each individual in effect becomes a production hub. A person expressing themselves with their phone now has full control over the overall image (with the reassurance of edits) they are portraying to the outside world.
How do technological preferences of Millennials and Generation Z affect employee engagement?
This massive shift in how people engage obviously spells trouble, and opportunity, for the workplace. While the attention span of the average Millennial runs at 12 seconds, Generation Z’s average attention span is a mere 8 seconds. But here's the upside; if you can manage to peak the interest of Millennials and Generation Z at work, they will engage more heavily than previous generations. To capture this short attention span, it’s all about speaking their language.
If mobile devices are approved and utilized in a frontline workforce as a vehicle for communication, you instantly replicate the ideal conditions for these generations to be most engaged. This is a huge opportunity to create extremely positive employee experiences via a device that almost everyone already owns.
However, the missed opportunity of not engaging these generations (especially Generation Z) on their mobiles can be grave. If Generation Z is met with outdated technology or lack of a platform on which they can express themselves, the potential for extremely negative employee experiences will detrimentally shape your relationship with this pivotal generation.
What Millennials and Generation Z expect at work
As a generation raised in uncertain times, Generation Z expects authenticity and transparency from management. Since Generation Z is responsive to technological engagement, they're perfectly primed for a transparent work environment fostered by technology. Whereas an economically volatile upbringing shaped Generation Z into pragmatic stability-seekers craving linear upward mobility, Millennials largely seek their own path and are more idealistic. For Millennials, lack of personal fulfillment at work is a huge deal breaker. Filling this pursuit of meaning in the form of access to knowledge and alignment with company values is critical.
The importance of engaging Millennials and Generation Z for the future of work
Generation Z is a group of multi-taskers; they're interested in holding several roles across one employer. This jack-of-all trades approach stems in part from witnessing economic uncertainty at a young age, propelling the belief that a wider range of expertise better protects against a rapidly changing job landscape. This can-do attitude is a huge asset to any company willing to take on the future of our changing economic landscape. Industry giants in energy, infrastructure, transportation and communications (among others) are not guaranteed a spot in the Third Industrial Revolution unless drastic changes to business models and workforce management are made. For this reason alone, you want the industrious and pragmatic Generation Z fully on your side during our upcoming economic transformations.
While Generation Z has the robustness to move us through economic transformation, Millennials are contributing to the Third Industrial Revolution in a different way; by using their idealism to drive creative solutions for an alternative economy. Millennials are the driving force behind the new sharing economy, which is a manifestation of their pursuit to enrich the community and contribute meaningfully. Because Millennials search for personal meaning at work, tapping into training and mentorship opportunities is a huge incentive for them to stick around. With Generation Z coming to work ready to engage via technology, and the Millennials' search for meaning, there’s no better way to support these groups than by offering technological maturity and knowledge training to build new skills and personal connections within the company. And what better way to deliver on both of these preferences than with an internal communications platform?
Consequences of Failing to Engage Millennials and Generation Z
Provide work-approved social communication alternatives to Generation Z and Millennials, or they will stick to what they know: their own social platforms. These social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and WhatsApp, are a security risk, compromising your company’s data. To avoid the pitfalls of unapproved platforms, an internal communications platform that mimics a social platform is most effective in engaging current and incoming employees.
As an employer ahead of the game, your best advantage in the pursuit of engaging Generation Z and Millennials is to hook them as soon as they start. By having a social and secured internal communications platform up and running upon their arrival, you’ll ensure their ability to communicate successfully within the company so they can onboard, integrate, contribute, and engage at the highest possible level. A little preparation goes a long way in partnering successfully with the two newest generations in the workforce.
Written by Campbell Owens
Challenging conventional corporate practices, Campbell explores what it means to truly invest in people at work. When she's not writing, you can find her in a studio of the art, yoga, or apartment variety.