How can businesses effectively engage cross-generational internal audiences?  

“Generation Z, born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, is entering the workforce with its unique set of expectations and preferences’ says 438 Marketing’s co-founder Andy Whitmore. “What this generation of digital natives isn’t expecting are the outdated methods that so many large, and supposedly ‘forward thinking’, innovation-led organisations are still adopting to ‘engage’ with them in the workplace.

“We found that these methods are irksome to audiences that fall into generational categories from Millennials to Gen Z:

The outdated weekly email: Gen Z employees are accustomed to instant messaging and real-time communication. They find lengthy email chains cumbersome and time-consuming. Email contact alone is seen as an outdated method for quick collaboration or urgent communication.

Ineffective company intranets and knowledge sharing: Traditional company intranets, often cluttered with outdated information and difficult to navigate, fail to resonate with Gen Z employees used to the efficiency and possibility of AI. They appreciate user-friendly interfaces and easily accessible, intuitive information.

Overreliance on Memos: Gen Z employees value transparency and authenticity. Receiving lengthy, impersonal memos can be off-putting. These employees prefer concise and personalized communication methods.

Lack of Mobile-Friendly Tools: Gen Z employees are digital natives who rely heavily on their smartphones. They prefer mobile-friendly communication tools that allow them to stay connected and engaged on the go. Outdated systems that are not optimised for mobile devices can hinder their productivity and engagement.

Inflexible Meeting/Event Structures: Gen Z employees appreciate flexibility and work-life balance. Traditional meeting structures that demand in-person attendance or restrict remote participation can be frustrating for them.

“In increasingly fractured workplaces, where remote working is now an employee expectation, it’s been surprising to discover how employers are failing to engage with their internal audiences, within and beyond the day job, where poor comms and outdated use of technology are commonplace”, continues Whitmore.

“This is against a backdrop of recent surveys showing a rise in ‘quiet quitting’, when an employee feels disconnected from the workplace and quits the idea of going above and beyond; as a trend, it’s very much alive and rising. As is the battle to not only retain but attract talent, and to keep high recruitment costs down, which continues to be a major focus for organisation.

“Understanding audience preferences and motivational needs are crucial for organisations to foster effective communication and to successfully engage with every generation. There is a necessity for a deeper understanding of the youngest generation’s digital prowess and desire for meaningful interactions, as a benchmark to tap into non-traditional employee engagement techniques and be inclusive to all.

This is always our starting point when approaching a new brief.

And of course, the problem isn’t the so called ‘new norm’ of remote or hybrid working – thousands of businesses have long had non-desk-based colleagues and have operated permanent remote working. It’s that ‘traditional’ internal comms methods don’t really work – regardless of whether there are more people working remotely or not. Boring corporate circulars just don’t cut it any more, nor clunky internal intranets.

So what can businesses do to affect cultural transformation and effectively engage cross-generational internal audiences?  

Well, overall it’s about creating change that matters; building culture by exploring new ways to reach and engage a diverse workforce, and leveraging relevant communication avenues that audiences actually connect with.

Using our work with PepsiCo’s global Insights team as an example, by giving its campaign a voice as well as a innovative channel strategy we enabled it to break through and increase engagement in ways never seen before.

Consumer insights are vital for shaping PepsiCo’s future but with its global Insights team spanning the world, working as one was becoming harder. Our challenge was to create a sense of unity globally to unlock its potential. We brought our theme of ‘Connection’ to life – between colleagues, teams, and consumers. From virtual festivals and social campaigns, to competitions and awards, the campaign proved the power that comes from a culture of connection. The campaign immediately drove a 52 percent increase in Town Hall attendance and a 19.4 percent YOY increase in attendees to its Connections Week.

An inclusive platform that encourages networking across teams and departments, facilitating cross-functional collaboration and knowledge exchange, is another way that organisations can make remote working more effective and enjoyable. With PepsiCo we also helped to promote its internal AI platform Ada to its global workforce. Ada is an online knowledge and collaboration hub bringing together information from different sectors, teams, and business units. But game-changing tools like Ada can only change the game if used. So using the platform’s first birthday as a hook we activated an integrated campaign rewarding teams for interacting with Ada, which drove a 98 percent increase in total logins and a 78 percent increase in unique users.

This reinforces the impact that having a fit for purpose intranet is vital in fostering greater collaboration and knowledge share – that provides intuitive designs, personalised content, and robust search capabilities to enhance internal communication, but that ensuring that employees are motivated to use the platform paramount in its success.

As generations embrace AI, this too can be applied to personalised learning through AI powered learning programmes. Gen Z in particular have become accustomed to personalisation in most areas of their lives, and expect their learning and development to now be customised to individual preferences, recommending relevant learning materials, articles, and workshops based on their interests and career goals. This tailored approach empowers employees to take charge of their professional growth and development, fostering a culture of continuous learning.

Encouraging the use of platforms that facilitate two-way communication, such as chat forums, social intranets, or internal social media groups, to foster engagement and collaboration to meet today’s employees’ expectations is also important. Organisations should consider integrating more efficient messaging tools or project management platforms to streamline communication and keep employees engaged, and explore alternative ways to disseminate information that aligns with Gen Z’s preference for direct and meaningful communication.

A real-time feedback system that encourages open communication and transparency can not only enable organisation to continuously improve its policies, programmes and work environment, but will help to achieve a truly inclusive and supportive culture.

And finally engagement within the workplace is also about entertainment as well as creativity, integrated with the audience’s affinity for technology.  Employing innovative creative techniques such as gamification is making engagement effortless and enjoyable as well as promote collaboration and socialisation.