Multi-Generational Communication in the Workplace

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The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of global workers aged 55+ has increased over the past decade and they predict, by the year 2024, this age group will grow more than any other in the workforce. However, by 2025 Millennials are predicted to occupy three quarters of the global workforce and post-millennials will begin entering into the workforce soon.

Gallup reports that texting, emailing, and using a cell phone are the most frequently used forms of informal communication nowadays but what about those who did not grow up with these technological advances and would rather speak face-to-face?

The West Midland Family Center published a comprehensive chart titled, “Generational Differences Chart” that elaborates more on the different communication and work styles of four generations:

Traditionalists (1900-1945)
Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
Generation X (1965-1980)
Millennials (1981-2000)

Notable differences include:

Traditionalists like one-on-one/in-person communications or written memos as do Baby Boomers but they are each fairly rigid when it comes to communicating outside of the office. Generally, when their workday is done, they want to spend their time not working. Likewise, Gen X wants to be called “only at work.”

Millennials, however, are happy to receive texts, emails, photos, or cell phone calls at any time. In fact, there are even new platforms that allow HR professionals to send text messages to today’s employee candidates.

Since traditionalists are more likely to recall rotary phones and “yes sir/no sir” communications, and millennials are the “OMG” ers of today, finding effective way to have a promote collaborative communication can be challenging but a report by Willis Towers Watson showed that “companies with high effectiveness in change management and communication are three and a half times more likely to significantly outperform their industry peers.”

In addition, although Millennials have the largest share of the global workforce, the next generation – Generation Z (1996 –) – are quick on their heels and are “making big waves” in all things a generation could including “including parenting, education, employment, entrepreneurship, sales, marketing, politics, religion, and more.”

So how can today’s leaders reach a high level of effective communication when dealing with so many different generations?

Learn About Each Generation

You wouldn’t go into an interview with a new company or to try to pitch a new client without first getting to know them. The same can be said for your multi-generational workforce.

Get to know at least the basics of each generation. Their general life views, motivations, assets, liabilities, and values. While they are all different, all have spectacular attributes that can contribute greatly to your organization if properly capitalized on.

Respect

It goes without saying that respectful communication will be much better received. However, what is considered respectful to a traditionalist, may seem condescending to a millennial.

For example, a traditionalist or baby boomer will appreciate getting a clearly-stated directive because they like to know exactly what they are supposed to do. To these generations, having a clear objective – a goal to accomplish – is enough for them and they don’t need any more explanation. To them, clear and direct communication is a way of showing them respect.

Conversely, a millennial’s response to a clearly-stated directive may be, “Why?” because millennials like “big picture” communications. They like to be connected to the overall mission of the organization so they may feel off-center and even insulted if they are given an order without understanding the reason behind it.

Meeting your employers wherever they are, is one of the best ways to ensure respectful communication and make them feel they are appreciated while also creating a cohesive team.

Play to Multi-Generational Diversity

It may seem counterintuitive to put a traditionalist and a millennial together on the same project but understanding that each of these generations brings with it positive attributes can help you leverage these strengths to reach powerful outcomes.

Above that, promoting multi-generational projects is a great way to help employees learn to communicate with one another. Since millennials are naturally inquisitive and traditionalists like to feel their age and experience are appreciated, this pairing (as an example) could prove to be quite beneficial to your organization as well as millennials who can glean insights and encouragement from their elder colleagues.

Avoid Stereotyping

Although there are generalities among each generation, every person is unique. It can be helpful to find out how your employees prefer to communicate. Although traditionalists might rather receive a hand-written memo, it’s possible that they have adopted and appreciate a brief email.

Likewise, some millennials might enjoy occasional face-to-face chats that allow them to connect with you instead of a text.

Keep Communication Lines Open

Having an “Open Door Policy” is often touted to have multiple benefits and the same goes for communication.

Encourage your employees to reach out at any time they have a question, concern, or idea. This will take a little bit of the pressure off of you to reach out to them because it lets them know universally that they are an important part of your team.

Having open communication lines means your multi-generational workforce can come to you on their terms and since you are already aware of the different communication styles of each generation, you can respond appropriately. This also serves the purpose of getting to know your team better which is an important part of effective leadership.

Implement Team-Building Activities

According to experts, team-building activities can “help break down barriers in communication and also how to better utilize both verbal and non-verbal forms of communication.”

While it’s not likely that your traditionalists or baby boomers would enjoy a rigorous hike over the river and through the woods, there are plenty of team-building activities that are appropriate for all generations and also serve to strengthen the relationships of your team members and help them further get to know each other.

Utilize a Business Communication Platform

Today’s businesses are increasingly incorporating technology and office automation to increase productivity, engagement, collaboration, and communication.

HeyBuddy is a powerful communication platform that brings all of your company’s people together in a streamlined way that meets them wherever they are because it works across any device and keeps everyone connected while also keeping you on top of updates, news, and information. Contact us today to find out how HeyBuddy can help make your workforce more collaborative.