While Generation X was the generation that rode the first wave of digital communication – emailing with America Online and chatting via Instant Messenger – the generations that came since have cemented digital communication as a necessity both at home and on the job. When it comes to Generation Z – the most recent generation to enter the workforce – the favorite form of communication isn’t just digital; it’s visual, short, and to the point.
For this audience, gone are the days of hammering out an email to reach them. These days, texts, gifs, and videos rule … and this is not necessarily a bad thing for older generations.
Every employee has taken part in countless meetings after which they’ve said, “That could have been an email!” Lengthy email exchanges also leave many Gen Zers exclaiming, “Please just text me!”
Texting and instant messaging can save time over back-and-forth email threads. Should an email be necessary, incorporating images or videos is an excellent way to save time. In fact, one study found that incorporating visual technology into email communication was so effective at saving time, increasing profitability, and reducing miscommunications that it resulted in a whopping $167 billion in savings for the companies involved.
Shortened Attention Spans
One benefit of digital communication tools is that information is typically delivered in quickly-digestible chunks. Studies have found that the internet has greatly shortened the human attention span, making it torturous for many people to focus on a 1,000-word email update. For employees raised at the height of the digital age, communicating via lengthy written communication can even feel daunting – challenging to read in its entirety, let alone process the information being presented.
Updates delivered via videos, graphics, or other visual forms offer a way for digital-generation brains to digest information in the way they’ve been trained to do so. As for other conversations, not only is texting and messaging via platforms like Facebook or Slack more direct — it practically discourages long requests or explanations. A simple “Got it” (punctuation optional) or a thumbs-up emoji is all that’s needed to acknowledge that details have been received.
Eliminating Electronic Confusion
In addition to the “meeting that could’ve been an email,” another electronic pet peeve of Generation Z is the email response that’s vague. “That’ll be fine” in response to a request for time off or discussion about plans for an ongoing project can be perceived as passive-aggressive. In contrast, emojis, gifs, and video messages leave very little room for doubt that the sender may be displeased.
This not only helps eliminate any confusion over the intent of a message; it also vibes well with Generation Z’s overall openness when it comes to their emotions. While work communications used to be very sterile and matter-of-fact, today’s emails and texts are sprinkled with standing ovation gifs, crying-face emojis, and direct video messages that leave very little room for interpretation.
Bridging the Generational Gap with Generation Z Employees
In a company with a generationally diverse workforce, it’s important to help accommodate clear communication in both directions. This might mean offering a primer on proper email etiquette to younger generations used to more informal styles of communication. It may also include providing training and information to older generations on new forms of communication your company may be putting into use.
While people can be hesitant to change, offering evidence of the benefits of shifting into new modes of operating can be helpful. From flexible work scheduling to the immediate communication allowed by carrying a cell phone, younger generations have blazed trails by offering new ways of functioning and reaching out at work.