Three ways to engage Gen Z in the process conversation

How PEX professionals can make the most of energetic minds and new ideas




Young people watching imac Image: @mimithian

Much has been written about the place of Millennials in today’s business context, and while debates rage over the pros and cons of that generation’s contribution to the workforce, another group is quietly slipping into organizations and establishing careers for themselves. Gen Z are the recent graduates, the interns and new hires that will rapidly begin to have an impact on the world around them.

So how do we engage this next wave of energetic minds and new ideas in the essentials of process management?

New kids on the (office) block

Conversations around compliance, the place of good process management and the value of continuous improvement don’t sound like the staple of Gen Z water-cooler talk. They are however vital topics for any organization to keep at the forefront for all their staff. It’s not that Gen Z don’t want to engage; it’s simply that many of the existing conversations feel irrelevant to them.

Companies need to think through how to raise the profile of business process management with this next generation of workers in a meaningful way in order to harness their inherent strengths and skills in the pursuit of process excellence.

Here are three key ways to leverage the enthusiasm and innovation of Gen Z in pursuit of great process management:

Make it visual

Gen Z are unarguably the most technologically savvy generation yet. They swim in the digital world that generations before are still only dipping their toes into. It’s a great strength, but it also means that traditional channels and process tools aren’t going to engage them.

A Gen Z workforce isn’t going to reach for a phonebook-sized procedure manual, and they won’t dig through complex directory trees to find the information they need. Their expectations for information have been set by Instagram and YouTube, and if we want to focus their attention on process matters, we need to follow suit.

That means visually appealing tools with simple, intuitive interfaces. Don’t give Gen Z a Visio diagram; give them an interactive portal that they can skim, and dive into where they need to. Don’t bury them in pages of procedures; a clean process map with key points and video tutorials is what they’re looking for.

Search capabilities and connected portals like SharePoint and intranets need to make it easy to find the essential data, in a quick-to-grasp format. Kyle Elliott, a consultant writing for Forbes believes a focus on utilizing effective and efficient technologies will be key to engaging Gen Z in the workforce. The bonus of such an approach is that it also brings the increasingly diverse workforce into the conversation; speakers of English as a second language can more readily participate in process management through visually simple tools.

Enable two-way conversation

Gen Z is probably the most connected generation we’ve seen, with the entire world only a screen away. While we could argue the merits of affirmations via Instagram, there is no denying that Gen Z thrives on the feedback and active engagement that similar environments provide.

Forbes describe this generation’s approach as “a collaborative mindset and a notable desire to apply their unique capabilities to enhance the workplace.” Gen Z workers expect to see some kind of response when they engage with the world around them. If their efforts, innovations and ideas are met with the stony silence of the status quo, they’ll soon look elsewhere.

That means making collaboration the norm in process management. There need to be clear channels for offering improvements, and an effective system for feedback on those ideas. It involves creating a conversation around continuous improvement, not a one-way street.

Gen Z may not have all the answers - a fact they’d readily admit - but they want to be involved in the pursuit of them with a voice that is heard. By utilizing feedback loops and notifications of change, a good process management approach will affirm their place in the environment and capture their fresh perspective on the organization’s business.

Create a dynamic environment

Gen Z believe in the power to change the world, and they have plenty of evidence that it can be done. Crowdsourcing is just one example of how these digital natives band together over a shared vision to turn it into a reality.

In a study on Gen Z in the workforce, Nintex found “Gen Z cares deeply about company culture... one in which Gen Z can play an active role in evolving processes and tools.” They want to see change, and an environment of continuous improvement provides just the context for it.

That means process management can’t be static. Process tools need to be dynamic, communicating change to users and encouraging engagement. Nothing will turn Gen Z off like an entrenched status quo. However, when every level of an organization celebrates the ongoing pursuit of process excellence, it creates a culture that energizes the newcomers to the workforce. By seeing change happen, Gen Z will be encouraged to be part of the ongoing evolution.

Simulate the app experience

One of the other hallmarks of Gen Z is their adaptability. Almost every week there seems to be a new app, and it’s no great feat for digital natives to switch between tools and platforms as they emerge.

Find the best tools available that foster collaboration, engage users in accessible ways, and communicate clearly the story of continuous improvement. Offer the newest generation in your workforce a doorway into continuous improvement in the ways they understand: digital, visual, clear, and engaging.

By recognizing the world that Gen Z inhabits and embracing its strengths, you can harness the energy and innovation of this emerging generation for the pursuit of process excellence.

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