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Cracking the Gen Z Code is Easier Than You Think — Here's How To Navigate The Generation Gap At Work Gen Z are digital natives with minimal experience in formal group settings. Here are 5 tips for enhancing communication with your new hires.

By Tara Joseph Edited by Micah Zimmerman

Key Takeaways

  • A layer of generations and skills is suitable for any business as long as communication remains open and valued.
  • Open up communication to avoid boundaries, but set boundaries to ensure you continue on your ideal path.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I live in southern California, a region that prides itself on a relaxed and casual attitude. But I have seen utter exasperation of my young associates when I am painstakingly slow learning a new digital tool. I have also heard many complain about their jobs because an office environment feels like visiting Mars.

Every generation has its hallmark trait. GenZs, born between 1995 and 2012, are known as the first generation of digital natives. Most were introduced to iPhones while they were still being wheeled around in strollers. They played on iPads as toddlers and engaged with social media before adolescence.

Fast-forward just a few years, and early Gen Zers are rapidly entering the work world. At age 29, some may already have started their own businesses, while a multitude of Gen Zers are now graduating from college and applying for jobs. In other words, they are becoming a larger chunk of the workforce. Learning to communicate across the generation gap is crucial to molding a coherent, collaborative workforce.

American Gen Zs are much more diverse than previous generations. From 2000 to 2010, the country's Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total U.S. population, according to the U.S. Census Department. The number of Americans calling themselves mixed white and black rose 134 percent. LGBT identification in the U.S. is now up nearly 8 percent, according to a Gallup poll, with close to three out of ten women identifying as LGBTQ+.

Last but not least, many Gen Zs spent crucial social development phases studying at home during the COVID-19 pandemic. The experience made it hard for many to return to group activities as they learned to study, play video games and converse online. Why go out when the world is at your fingertips?

Related: How to Navigate Generational Differences and Hybrid Challenges in the Workplace

In sum, these digital natives operate and communicate very differently than anyone over 35 who learned from textbooks and chalkboards and assembled in the office pantry.

With many Gen Z's working starting work, here are a few tips for bridging potential communications gap and building lasting and trusting younger generation employees:

1. Communication

Clarify the primary form of communication you expect them to use at work when you make a new hire. SMS, Whatsapp, in-house chat systems, and personal conversations or email are just a few forms of sharing information. Ensure they know what to use — and are well adapted to use it. Stay consistent in using these forms of communication yourself. And outline how quickly you generally expect a response.

Related: The 5 Things Gen Z Is Looking for in a Job and Career

2. Boundaries

Gen Z has probably never experienced closed-door office environments or hierarchical practices of office life. Jacket and tie at work? Never. Communicate their office hours and expectations for workplace etiquette. What type of absenteeism will not be tolerated? How much remote work is acceptable, and when?

Setting fair and clear boundaries with direct communication at the start will set the tone for your work culture, which should lead to trust and teamwork. You might want to allow some work-from-home flexibility for these digital natives, who feel entirely comfortable with virtual communication and learning. Gen Zs frown on rigidity and generally pay close attention to mental health. An orientation session for newcomers could be helpful.

3. Provide lots of feedback

Gen Zs respond well to empathy and open communications. They also move at such a quick pace with technology and assignments that they may miss the point in their eagerness to achieve. While they can build a beautiful spreadsheet quickly, did they focus on the main point? Older managers share that frequent chats will build trust, whereas a once-a-year appraisal only feels old and stiff.

4. Walk the talk of diversity and share it

Piling social networking into activities that might offend some cultures, like Happy Hour, can become problematic, so think through group activities that lead to interaction. Lunch gatherings with many types of food can bridge differences, and so can group contests or service work.

Related: What Industry Leaders Are Doing to Show Support for Diversity

5. Mentorship

Mentorship programs can serve as a great way for communication between generations, as one-on-one conversations are often the best way for people to truly connect. Gen Z has a lot to learn from more experienced professionals, but these digital natives also have many skills to share and teach. Generally, mixing generations can lead to innovation and updated skills.

A layer of generations and skills is good for any business as long as communication remains open and valued. Open up communication to avoid boundaries, but set boundaries to ensure you continue on your ideal path.

Tara Joseph

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

CEO of Make Your Mark Communications

Tara is CEO of Make Your Mark Communications, a company for training clients on effective speaking, networking and messaging. She is a highly accomplished executive with 20+ years of experience in public speaking, broadcast journalism and corporate communications.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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