Look around your office or workplace. You may not immediately notice, but for the first time ever, most workplaces have five generations of workers within. As noted in a recent leadership article from Forbes.com, prior years have seen three or four generations at a time, resulting in some differences in work behaviour.
But now, with five different generations in the workplace, more differences and misunderstandings on language, behaviours and attitudes are happening between the groups. And this is impacting communications methods at the office. And with digital communications taking over more and more from face-to-face contact, this is spurring a new evolution in the way information is being shared in and out of the office. Discussions over mundane things like company outings, or more important meetings about small business credit card offers can all have different shades of meaning to different employees.
Traditionalists Also referred to as Matures and the Silent Generation, Traditionalists are those who are 68 years and older, born earlier than 1945. This generation and can be tech-challenged, and is known to prefer traditional, more direct communications in the workplace, such as one-on-one meetings, telephone calls and hand-written memos.
Baby Boomers Born between 1946 and 1964, Baby Boomers are currently the second largest generation in the workplace. They are known for their hard work ethic, pride, and quality and prefer in-person meetings at the workplace.
Generation X This generation is known for being self-reliant, working hard and striving for a healthy balance between work and life. Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X prefers email communications versus meetings, appreciates immediate feedback and is known for re-evaluating their career paths every now and then.
Generation Y Also known as Millenials, the Internet Generation and Echo Boomers, Generation Y was born between 1981 and 1995. A generation that grew up multi-tasking, they crave balance between work and life, appreciate recognition in the workplace and are constantly evaluating their career paths.
Generation Zen Born from 1996 to the present, Generation Zen is just beginning to join the workforce. They are also referred to as Digital Natives and have grown up during times of dramatic changes in communications and advancements in technology.
These five distinct types of workers must adapt and be flexible to get along in today’s fast-moving, tech-heavy work environment.
Difficulties in Communication
Less than 10 percent of small business employees said they know what is going on ‘most of the time’, according to a 2012 AMA Enterprise survey. Meanwhile, about 55 percent of the workers surveyed said they feel informed ‘some of the time.’ This communication loss may be effect customer service. If one hand in the operation has made changes to certain functions or processes, and others are not aware of it, then it can cause hiccups in overall company efficiency.
Tips for Effective Communications
To help bridge this gap in employee engagement and understanding, here are some tips and techniques for effective communications in the workplace:
Find out more about your co-workers: With four to five generations in the workplace, there are at least five different world views. For more effective communications, each group should strive to find out more about today’s generations in the workplace. Consider how to deliver messages to individual Traditionalists, Boomers, Generation Xers, Millennials or Digital Natives. That’s a key component in promoting effective communications.
Develop a communications strategy: Large organizations have internal communication departments to reach out to employees through intranets, company videos, events and seminars. Small businesses tend to focus their communication efforts more externally in the hopes of bringing in more customers, more business contacts and such. But they too should strive to create good inside communications for employees, writes Thriving Small Business blog.
The first step is to figure out how the organization will communicate with employees. Consider what information is to be shared, who needs to know this information, when they need to know it and how it will be delivered. In addition, an employee-only intranet can be an efficient tool that can enhance communications and collaboration for work groups in different locations, as well as provide a forum for companies to share important announcements and solicit feedback from the workforce.
Be mindful of grammar: Check your communications. Baby Boomers get irked when Millennials casually disregard correct spelling, notes Better Communications Results. Reading email before it goes out, and learning how to present materials helps younger professionals gain trust and respect from older workers.
Use instant messaging: Older workers can be out of touch when it comes to using instant messaging. It’s faster, easier, and most business decisions can be made via IM. It sure beats long, drawn-out email chains between employees.
Choose the right communications vehicles: Today’s mix of online and offline tools can enhance company communications. From office bulletin boards, emails and IMs, to newsletters, staff meetings and video conferencing, the trick is to figure out which platform to use for best communication.
Over-communicate when needed: One quick email message or a newsletter blurb might not give multi-tasking employees enough of an opportunity to learn of an important announcement, let alone retain it. When necessary, use several communication vehicles to share a message effectively across an organization.
Workplace cultures and means of communicating have changed dramatically in a decade. Successful companies have found ways to capitalize on the digital revolution and change with the times, while implementing effective employee communication strategies, tools, policies and procedures. You can effectively implement some of these communications tools into your own company.