Communicating with Generation Z
So members of the Facebook generation are horrible at face-to-face communication and don’t ever check their email inboxes. How on Earth do we reach them?
It all comes down to doing what they do, where they do it. Since Generation Z doesn’t use email, don’t even try emailing them; your messages will go unanswered. Instead, use the same media they dotexting and social networking.
First, teach yourself how to text. I know, it’s a pain; older fingers are fatter and slower than younger ones. (Tip: Ditch that older phone and buy and iPhone or Android; they have onscreen keyboards which are a lot easier to use than tapping letters on a numeric keypad.) But sending texts from your phone may be the only way you’ll get a response from these kids.
Next, join Facebook; that’s where all the kids are, often 24/7. Become a Facebook “friend” and you’ll see all the posts the younger generation makes. You can also chat (instant message) with them in real time, and share photos and videos, if they’re into that.
Whatever you do, you can’t force the Facebook generation to do things the old fashioned way. Oh, you can try, but they’ll resist; it’s much, much easier to meet them in their comfort zone.
When you do communicate with them, realize that it’s a different experience than what you’re used to. Just as communicating via email has a different protocol and grammar than communicating via written letter, communicating via text messages and Facebook is different still. The Facebook generation communicates in short messages, nothing longer than a sentence or two. They’re not used to proper grammar or punctuation, so resist the urge to correct misspellings and such. It also helps if you learn the lingo, in terms of acronyms, abbreviations, and shorthand expressions. (Do u c?)
Here’s another thing. Due to the immediacy of today’s technology, when a Generation Z’er sends you a message, he expects an immediate response. This generation is used to instant gratification; they can’t wait for a leisurely email reply, let alone the interminable wait for postal mail. They send a text, they expect a response within a minute or so. Anything longer and they’ll feel you’re ignoring them. It’s a bit of a burden for those of us who actually like to think before typing, but it’s what the younger generation demands.
Now, this doesn’t address how Generation Z will have to adapt if and when they enter the traditional workforce. Most companies rely on email for internal and external communication, and frown on the use of social networking during work hours. The Facebook generation will have to grudgingly learn to check their inboxes and write memos with more than one sentence and real punctuation, or the workplace will have to evolve to the shorter, more immediate means of communicating that the younger staff favors. I don’t know how that battle turns out, but I’ve learned never to bet against the incoming generation; it’s hard to stop evolution.
And that’s the real takeaway here. Every generation is different from the previous one, just as your generation was more evolved than your parents. That’s just the way it is; things change. You can complain about the changes and what’s lost (and I particularly bemoan the end of thoughtful letter writing), but you might as well be lamenting the end of buggy whip manufacturing. Generation Z is the future, and they shall lead the wayjust in very short, very immediate text messages.