Workplace Communication Across Different Generations
Managers face many difficult challenges in the workplace, but one obstacle that often is overlooked is the need to communicate with up to four different generations in a single office setting. From the 18-year-old intern to the 72-year-old seasoned professional, human resources professionals need to find a balance between them and a method of expression that reaches them both – along with every age in between.
The Four Generations
Thanks to healthier living and later retirement, organizations potentially can be staffed with individuals from every life stage. Each generation has their own needs and each is capable of bringing unique assets to the workforce.
According to the Pew Research Center, the generations consist of:
- Born from 1980 to 2000: Generation Y or millennials
- Born from 1965 to 1980: Generation X
- Born from 1946 to 1964: baby boomers
- Born from 1945 and before: traditionalists or the silent generation
This mix of ages adds diversity, but can also create a few challenges, especially as it relates to communication. When done right, communicating with employees across generations can be an advantage of the workforce.
Use Different Communication Tools
When traditionalists and baby boomers were entering the workforce, computers didn’t exist. Millennials, however, have never known life without a smartphone, which makes a world of knowledge available at their fingertips. When sending company-wide information, consider utilizing different communication tools to ensure each generation feels comfortable and fully grasps the meaning and significance of the material.
In Person: Arrange for meetings or one-on-one discussions for important information, particularly when involving traditionalists, who may lean towards such formalities as the norm.
Phone Call: Baby boomers prefer phone calls for important information. Traditionalists, who may have been introduced to the rotary phone in their childhood, utilize landlines for much of their day-to-day communication. Both generations may or may not feel comfortable using a smartphone.
Email: Gen Xers prefer email correspondence, while baby boomers and millennials are all accepting of its use in business. Traditionalists should be capable of using email, but typically prefer more personal methods of communication.
Text: Millennials were born in an era when texting was common, and they find its use easy and often preferred.
Social Media: Millennials consider social media a part of their life, often without differentiating between what’s personal and what’s professional. LinkedIn is typically considered the most office-friendly social media option, while Facebook – with its game invites – is often forbidden at work.
Office communication programs: Programs such as Skype for Business, Slack, Ryver or Bitrix24 are excellent alternatives to public social media options. These sites allow co-workers to discuss projects as well as lunch.
Learning management system (LMS): Communicating through an LMS allows users to gain knowledge while staying up-to-date on corporate training requirements. LMS courses can come in the form of video, podcasts or PowerPoint presentations. Millennials are particularly accepting of continuous learning and on-demand instruction options via desktop computer or mobile device.
Remember that these are merely generalizations and managers, supervisors and HR leaders should never assume anything about their employees. A traditionalist may use his iPhone for all correspondence while a millennial may prefer the feel of keys beneath her fingers. Research on human diversity reveals that making assumptions about employees based on age – or any other characteristic – should be avoided. As leaders in the workplace, human resources professionals should practice breaking down stereotypes, not encouraging them.
Acknowledging the distinct mannerisms among the generations can result in new ideas and a chance for everyone to learn and grow. Hiring for diversity is essential; now take advantage of those inherent differences among your employees.
Tags: Baby Boomers, Communication Syle, Different Generations, Generation X, Generation Y, Jason Bodin, LMS, methods of communication, Millennials, tech-dependent generation, Traditionalists, Training Technology, Workplace communication
Posted in Blog, Employee Engagement, Featured, Leadership, Talent Management