• Yulkendy Valdez

3 Virtual Tools to Engage Generation Z - COVID-19 Mini-Guide

Generation Z, who? What happened to millennials?

Although higher education and the workforce are still getting used to Millennials, Gen-Zs are around the corner, and they can’t wait any longer for change.

Gen-Z (born anytime from 1996 to 2010) are today’s students and young workers.

96% of Gen Z own a smartphone, and more than half spend 10+ hours on their devices a day (Concordia). In the last few months, young people have spent even more time on their phones. COVID-19 has given them a lot of free time, but also more anxiety and stress as their futures become more uncertain than ever.

A common misconception is that young people are faring well with remote work and distance learning. However, even though they are more technologically equipped, and inclined to participate in more virtual experiences, none of them signed up for a pandemic to be part of this digital revolution.

In the U.K., it was reported that more than four in 10 young people say that the COVID-19 crisis has increased panic and anxiety (Prince Trust). I was unable to find the statistics for the U.S., but with the growth of the pandemic nationally, I can imagine that our numbers are very similar or even higher.

This is a critical moment for employers, educational institutions, and nonprofits to step up to the plate and be there for our young people. If we want our young people to be humble, resilient, and inclusive, we have to demonstrate these leadership qualities ourselves. The difficult thing is how do we communicate and engage with young people at a time when they are already overwhelmed? How do we meet young people where they are?

Below, I share practical tools you can use to engage Gen-Z in a more culturally relevant way.

1. Text them

7 out of 10 Gen-Zs prefer messaging to communicate with others (Concordia). The same way we can schedule social media posts, you can schedule check-ins via text with your young people. For example, there are international students who are struggling with recent ICE policies barring them from online learning. Fortunately, these policies were rescinded, but it doesn’t take back the emotional toll that it has taken on many students as they prepare for the Fall semester.

The good news is that if they feel they have accessible support systems they can lean on, it keeps them hopeful that everything will be okay. Don’t know what to send? Send them an image leveraging platforms such as Imgur. A simple photo or visual can communicate to your students that you are really invested in their social-emotional wellbeing.

2. Tune in or create a Youtube Live

YouTube is the most-visited website by people age 18 to 24. Gen-Zs love video, so no wonder they are engaging in platforms such as Tik Tok and Snapchat. Although we don’t encourage you to use these platforms because of data and privacy laws, it doesn’t mean we can’t learn from their success.

Young people love to express themselves through video. An easy thing to do is crowdsource topics that students care about and create video content around it where they are a key co-creator and partner. Due to the pandemic, the labor market will become more competitive and young people will be pressured to start their job search even earlier.

An easy thing you can do to help is to create 90-second videos showcasing different careers and resources that they can look into.

3. Try Music!

A fun and effective way to bring young people together is through music. Why not create a playlist of their favorite songs? We might not be together in the same space, but there are ways we can still feel connected to each other via commonalities and differences that we have. You can leverage Spotify to create playlists or Youtube to create a specific channel.