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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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4 The impact of generation Z

An image of a group of young people on their smartphones.
Figure 4 Lots of smartphones.

In Week 7, you considered the impact of different generations on communication in the workplace. Generation Z (born from 1995 onwards) was not included in the discussion, as they are just starting to enter key roles within the workforce so there is still limited evidence available for their workplace behaviours.

However, there is some detail emerging on characteristics that may have an impact on their communication style when they do become more representative in the workforce (NFON, no date).

  • The smartphone is very important to this generation. It makes them part of a fully connected, 24/7 online community in which virtual and personal contacts are considered equal.
  • They are highly capable of multi-tasking, moving back and forth between real and virtual worlds and across channels, recording and filtering information. For example, at work they are likely to conduct research on the internet during a meeting, contributing their findings as the meeting goes on.
  • They have a short attention span. The time they can focus without getting distracted is estimated at approximately 8 seconds.
  • Many of them consider personal conversation to be the most effective form of conversation. However, they also communicate using images, emoticons, GIFs, short videos and live streaming – so communication tools that mix speaking and writing with visual elements will be popular.

Clearly, this generation will embrace the virtual technologies outlined this week, but it is encouraging to see their preference for face-to-face communication too. Will that eventually reverse the growing trend for remote working, or will technology offer attractive solutions that cover both bases?

Activity 3 Generation Z

Timing: Allow 5 minutes for this activity

Think about someone you know from generation Z (it might even be you!). Do the characteristics outlined in this section sound right? Is there anything you would do differently when communicating with a member of generation Z now that you know about their preference for a smartphone or short attention span?

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It seems that texting or using other forms of social media with short snappy messages could be a useful communication strategy. If you have to use email, make sure your emails are clear and concise.

Consider asking individuals from Generation Z to be involved when any visual activities are required in the workplace, such as poster design or images for social media to attract or engage your client group. This will play to their strengths.

Try not to be offended by their use of smartphones during meetings or even conversations. This is not intended to be ruse as they are probably still engaging with you and the discussion topic – you could check this by asking what they are researching or what they’ve discovered.

In the next section, you’ll look at the impact of technology on the future of job applications.