A good first step to effective multi-generational communication is acknowledging differences exist. Talk about it openly to help foster understanding.
It’s no secret that people from different generations can be, well, different. Differences can manifest in music tastes, pop-culture references, fashion trends and more. At work, generational differences can be illuminated in communication.
Depending on when an employee was born, they may have specific preferences and expectations for what effective communication looks like to them. However, the workplace requires overcoming these differences to achieve common goals regardless of the generations present, including:
Generation Z, born between 1997 to 2012
Millennials, born between 1981 to 1996
Generation X, born between 1966 to 1980
Baby Boomers, born between 1946 and 1965
More Than Age
Generational differences in communication are partially shaped by the state of society during an employee’s career progression. Education, socio-economic status, language and culture also play a role, among other things. Appreciating the reasons that can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding can help shape more supportive interactions.
For example, Baby Boomers participated in a workforce reliant on fax machines and file rooms. Compare that to Generation Z whose ability to get a cellphone was determined by their age, not its existence. And then there are Millennials who remember pre-internet life and embrace technology. You can see how these groups may naturally approach workplace communication differently.
Aligning communication with generational values is impactful. For example, a recent Indeed article noted individuals from Generation Z prioritize authenticity and truth. Communication led by these values can increase their engagement. Clear direction and transparency are also vital and should be reflected in training, coaching and mentorship communication.
It’s Not Just What You Say – It’s How You Say It
Ever stare at your phone until the ringing stops so you can text the caller? Do you prefer face-to-face communication over email? Your answers provide clues about your generation.
Of course, attributes cannot be wholly attributed to an entire generation. There are some commonalities though and understanding them helps multi-generational workforces to communicate better to increase productivity, job satisfaction and more.
As digital natives, the younger workforce is adept at text, instant messages and collaborative software. Communicating in these mediums is clear, approachable and appealing to them.
Older generations should be aware their younger colleagues may not place the same value on face-to-face communication, phone calls or emails that they do. If a younger colleague is not receptive or responsive, perhaps try a digital tool instead. Better yet, ask them about their preferences and adapt where possible.
Bridging the Gap
A good first step to effective multi-generational communication is acknowledging differences exist. Talk about it openly to help foster understanding, empathy and probably a little patience too.
Adapt policies that appreciate the impact of generational differences, implement inter-generational communication practices and youth-friendly language in the workplace and reaffirm a consistent commitment to bridging the gap through ongoing training.
A multi-generational workforce can be powerful. The younger employees bring a fresh perspective and emerging skill sets. Older employers provide invaluable insight, experience and mentorship. Having the two groups effectively communicate together helps organizations thrive.