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Using Technology to Engage Generation Z

Smiling young woman with colorful hair working with laptop computer in cafe.

Generation Z, the youngest cohort now in the workforce, is known to be an extremely tech-savvy generation. They differ from their older colleagues in other notable ways, as well, requiring different approaches—even different channels—to effectively engage them.

“Outdated legacy systems and poor user experience can be significant obstacles for Gen Z employees, who are used to the smooth, intuitive interfaces of social media and other digital platforms,” said Sara Mackessy, executive vice president of talent solutions at Atrium, a workforce and talent solutions firm in New York City. “Any intricate and multistep processes run the risk of being abandoned by Gen Z. Keeping workplace tools and systems up-to-date and user-friendly can greatly increase engagement and productivity among Gen Z employees.”

Tech companies seem perfectly poised to create environments that cater to digital natives. AvidXchange is one example.

A Case in Point

An accounts payable automation software company based in Charlotte, N.C., AvidXchange is “not just employing technology, we’re embracing it to craft a workplace that’s not only productive but also profoundly connected and inherently innovative,” said Todd Cunningham, AvidXchange’s CHRO.

That innovation is applied not just to the financial technology solutions the company delivers to customers, but also to how the company engages and inspires its employees, Cunningham said. “Gen Z professionals demand a work environment that mirrors the tech savviness of their personal lives,” he said. And that’s what AvidXchange delivers.

“From offering hybrid work schedules that champion work/life balance to integrating state-of-the-art, [Microsoft] Teams-enabled touchscreens in our conference rooms, we’re redefining what it means to be connected,” Cunningham said. “Our aim is to use tech to make work more human. Take our private lobby’s gourmet coffee shop and sandwich shop, for instance, where teammates can order with a tap on their phone, blending convenience with a touch of luxury. We also just launched an internal chatbot called Ava—AvidXchange’s Virtual Assistant—capable of answering tech support questions, deploying software licenses, and fulfilling IT support tickets.”

But it’s not just about integrating technology into the workplace, Cunningham said. It’s about strategically leveraging technology to “foster a sense of community and connection.” For instance, at AvidXchange, games like “The World’s Biggest Pac-Man” connect teammates “who were adults when the game launched with our younger teammates who consider it ‘so retro it’s cool,’ ” he shared.

These kinds of connections don’t occur just organically, though. Forethought and purpose are required to engage members of this newer generation while also successfully incorporating them into a multi-generational workplace.

Exploring Unique Interests and Preferences

It’s important to thoroughly understand the needs and preferences of your Gen Z staff members, said Stephanie Licata, senior learning strategist at Cloverleaf, an automated coaching technology for organizations based in Cincinnati. For instance, when assessing Gen Z’s learning needs, she said, “One of the first actions talent leaders can take is to conduct a learning audit to identify areas for improvement and opportunities for introducing new tools.”

Ask questions like:

  • What needs to be updated?
  • What new technology can we explore?
  • What are other organizations in our industry doing to stay ahead of this curve?

Ongoing opportunities for input are important, said Fredrick A. Scott, vice president, talent strategy and inclusion and early in career recruiting at ServiceNow, a digital workflow company based in Santa Clara, Calif.

“Feedback is essential to continually evaluate and adapt technology-based initiatives, as well as in-person activities, to ensure they remain relevant and impactful in connecting with Gen Z employees and engaging the entire workforce,” he said. “Giving employees a chance to share their feedback ensures that decisions made within the organization are representative of everyone who works there, contributing to a culture of inclusivity and collaboration.”

What employers have largely learned, through their own exploration and research conducted by others, is that Gen Z is a technology-first generation.

Offering Up-to-Date Technology with Multiple Options

Technology provides several options for connecting with employees of all generations. Members of Gen Z, having grown up with communications technology, likely expect to be able to engage with colleagues in the same manner they engage with friends.

Jill Chapman is director of early talent programs at Insperity, a human resources solutions provider based in Kingwood, Texas. Chapman recommended the use of social media to effectively connect with Gen Z employees. “You may not think of social media as an avenue to connect with your own team, but in fact, your company social media page is a great tool to engage your employees and promote connection,” she said.

Text and instant messaging are also good communication choices for connecting with this generation, Chapman said.

“Consider building a database of employee phone numbers and sharing important company news via text as well as email,” she said. Text messages can be brief and link to intranet posts or blogs that offer more detail.

“Many organizations already have access to an instant messaging platform such as Teams or Slack, but if you don’t already, adding IMS [instant messaging systems] to your communications plan can be very helpful for Gen Z.”  IMs, she noted, offer benefits for the entire organization, including increased collaboration and productivity. 

ServiceNow uses different technologies and modalities to connect with Gen Z employees wherever they may be, Scott said. This includes “everything from communities on a variety of online platforms—Teams, GroupMe, WhatsApp—as well as formats like podcasts, short videos, Udemy, Zoom, and personalized learning paths on our learning and development platform, frED.” The company also partners with external providers like Praxis to provide unique simulations on DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) and use tools such as Mentimeter to create varied ways of interacting through technology with our Gen Z participants, he said.

GenAI: A New Tool for Making Meaningful Connections

Generative artificial intelligence (GenAI) has emerged as a new tool to add to the mix. Grammarly’s third annual State of Business Communication report, conducted with Harris Poll, indicated that Gen Z is more likely to depend on GenAI (61 percent) than Millennials (56 percent), Gen X (53 percent), or Baby Boomers (41 percent). In fact, members of Gen Z said they can’t imagine doing their work without it.

Tracy Heath, principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP, said that GenAI can be used to connect with Gen Z from recruitment through talent development.

For example, “GenAI can assist new hires with personalized learning plans and curriculums that include the knowledge needed specifically for their jobs, created based on content most beneficial for prior hires,” she said. “Additionally, new hires can continue to be engaged and supported via chatbots and/or co-pilots that provide them with the opportunity to ask questions and give answers based on enterprise data. This can quickly provide insights and answers to questions that would have often required phone calls and encourage new hires to ask questions they might feel embarrassed about in front of a human colleague.”  

In a work environment that is increasingly remote, hybrid, and global, technology offers an obvious—and must-use—resource for making connections across all generations.

“The upside of technology is that individuals are not restricted to connecting solely within their specific function or region,” Scott said. Using various virtual platforms, employees can engage with colleagues around the globe, which fosters a diverse and inclusive environment, he said.

But despite the proliferation of multiple technology channels for making connections, it’s important to avoid over-relying on high-tech tools for these connections.

Don’t Forget the Human Touch

Natalie Andreas, an assistant professor of instruction at The University of Texas at Austin specializing in the intersection of technology and the workplace, said it’s essential “to exercise caution and mindfulness in the utilization of technology for communication and engagement purposes.”

Digital channels may offer unprecedented reach and accessibility, but she points out that “they also come with potential pitfalls such as information overload and digital fatigue.”

It’s important to “strike a balance between leveraging technology to connect with Gen Z and ensuring that communication remains authentic, relevant, and meaningful,” she said.


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