By 2020—not too far off—five different generations will be represented in the workforce, and they’ll all have different communication styles.
Traditionalists who were born before 1946, will be sharing office space with Gen 2020, people born after 1997. And of course, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Millennials will be in the mix, too. The first generation to embrace television will be shoulder-to-shoulder with generations for whom a world without smartphones feels like ancient history.
That presents a challenge for communicators who need to effectively message all those employees so they’re all working toward a common goal. How do you get everyone engaged, with shared purpose?
It’ll likely take a multi-pronged approach. According to Staff Management, it’s not just about technological differences. Members of different generations have different values, with some expecting a more hands-off approach, while others want regular feedback and recognition. Staff management advocates for trying lots of approaches:
In a multigenerational environment, it is wise to mix and match strategies like the team-building events favored by younger workers and the opinion-sharing practices promoted by their older counterparts. Younger generations might feel more comfortable communicating their thoughts when they feel like they know their coworkers, while older generations might need a structured forum in order to weigh in on key decisions.
Staff Management also recommends face-to-face interactions, as does Dana Brownlee, founder of training and management consulting firm Professionalism Matters, in an article in Business News Daily: “Bringing staff members of different generations together for face-to-face team-building exercises and ice breakers can help break down some of the barriers that can occur with digital communications.”
That same Business News Daily article warns that communicators and business leaders shouldn’t get bogged down in stereotypes. While workers of different ages will certainly have different methods and ideas, it isn’t fair to underestimate them or assume they’ll have certain flaws.
In another article at Forbes, corporate trainer Dana Brownlee notes, “It becomes very frustrating when you communicate with someone in a mode that they don’t like.” She advises that “workers across all age groups to individualize their approach by learning their coworkers’ preferences and attempting to meet in the middle.”
Once again, that likely means using numerous channels to communicate with employees, since face-to-face communication isn’t often the most feasible way to stay connected. It also means delivering messages through different platforms.
For example, consider sending emails that can be read across different devices. While some older employees may prefer to read email on a desktop computer, sending mobile-optmized emails means employees who prefer to view messages on their smartphones will get what they want, too.
Learn more about how communicators are measuring which internal communications work best by downloading PoliteMail’s 2016-2017 Internal Communications Survey Results.