A recent discussion in the office got me thinking about generations in the workplace. A brand-new generation, Gen Z, is about to enter the workforce – so who are they and how will they need to be communicated to?

There is some debate online about where one generation ends, and another begins. According to most, I am one of the first Gen Z but others would say I’m one of the last Millennials (Millennials were born between 1981-95 and Gen Z 1996-2010 – give or take five years). While there is plenty of overlap, with both typically categorised as expecting recognition, flexible working and career advancement, there are also significant distinctions between the two.

Millennials are generally regarded as team players who would sacrifice personal gain for the wider group whereas, conversely, Gen Z are viewed as preferring to stand out, showing off entrepreneurial skills in a bid to get ahead. Often referred to as the ‘always on’ generation, having grown up with easy access to the internet and social media. Gen Z are categorised as expecting instant communication, investing in self-learning over traditional education and having short attention spans.

With more and more Gen Z set to enter the workplace, what considerations will we need to make when planning communications – especially when the newest arrivals seem to be throwing out the rulebook. It seems our main challenge will be keeping Gen Z interested long enough to get any cut-through, so perhaps we need to rethink traditional comms tactics and channels.

Where previously emails and newsletters were enough to engage your workforce, Gen Z demand more. Preferring instant and face-to-face communication, as well as true authenticity and access to senior leaders, organisations (and the agencies they work with) need to stay ahead or risk being left behind.

The rise of social-media style channels in the workplace will therefore come as no surprise. Combining a familiar user experience with features such as instant messaging and live video streams, as well as the ability to have connections with senior leaders, seems to tick all of Gen Z’s communication boxes. Channels such as Workplace, Microsoft Teams, Slack, WhatsApp and Yammer include all the elements that Gen Z crave from their communications.

Saying this, older generations are just as keen on authenticity, face-to-face comms and senior leader contact, yet we’ve seen great success with our clients using Workplace – and that’s before the influence of Gen Z.

Gen Z are a new and exciting challenge. If you manage to speak their language (and can capture their attention for long enough), they’ll bring fresh ideas to drive organisations into the future.

This blog was written by Ellie Barrington, Account Executive on the Internal Comms team at Ruder Finn UK.