HotSpot: Employee Communications Blog

Closing the Generation Gap in Your Internal Communications

Posted by Jessica Palazzo on Sep 8, 2016 1:26:45 PM
Closing the Generation Gap in Your Internal Communications

Understanding your audience is the key to effective communications. Today’s workplace generally has a broad mix of employees spanning four different generations. Developing a targeted communication strategy to meet these generational needs may seem complex, but it doesn’t have to be.

As tech-savvy Millennials quickly become the majority of workers today, it’s important to understand some of the generational differences and what drives them – before you can tailor your communication approach:

  • Traditionalists (born before 1946): Raised in the aftermath of World War II, they understand sacrifice and uncertainty. They feel lucky to have a job and will often stay with a company for life. They are team players who appreciate expert testimonials and leadership endorsements.
  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964): Know what it’s like to compete for jobs. They are willing to work long hours to get ahead and are loyal to their employers. However, they also feel a sense of entitlement in return for their dedication. This group likes to understand the big picture and how they fit in.
  • Generation X (born 1965 – 1979): Maintain independence and remain open to moving jobs for a better deal. They have learned to value cell phones and computers, rather than face-to-face communication.  Work-life balance is a priority.
  • Millennials (born 1980 – 2000): The “Internet Generation” prefers quick access to information when and where they need it. Through social media use they want collaboration and validation from peers. They have short attention spans, but multi-task well. They don’t differentiate between work and personal life as their older colleagues do – so they value work that is meaningful.


5 Quick Tips for Communicating Across Generations

While you cannot stereotype employees by age, it can be helpful to consider these differences as you determine key messages and effective communication channels. So how do you develop a communication strategy that works across the generations? Here are some tips:


1. Recognize that generational differences influence learning styles.

Generational learning styles (often developed during formative years) should be taken into account.  Traditionalists and Boomers may be thought of as “classroom learners” who prefer face-to-face meetings or lectures, as well as reading educational materials.  Gen Xers may often be interactive/action learners who appreciate hands-on training, role-play or PowerPoint. Your Millennials prefer to learn “on-demand” with access to interactive software, e-learning tools and use of Apps.


2. Use a variety of communication channels.

When you consider the different needs of your employees, it’s important that your communication strategy includes a variety of communication channels.  The best communication strategy will include a combination of face-to-face (or video), print, online, social media and mobile platforms designed to reach all employees, regardless of preferences. Be sure to regularly survey your employees to find their preferred channels.


3. Consider what’s important and common ground.

As you develop your employee communication strategy, consider what may be important to your employees by generation and look for ways to promote these values. For example, in communicating your benefits program to employees, consider using testimonials.  Your Traditionalists appreciate expert endorsements, while your younger employees will value peer approval. Talk about the concept of “well-being” which may resonate in different ways with your employees. Finally, use interactive modeling tools to help employees make choices based on what’s important to them.


4. Get to the point.

Regardless of your communication medium, provide the most crucial details first.  Provide a quick summary of the goals, what this means to you, timing and action items before diving into the justifications and details.  In this way, Millennials will have the information they need to take action quickly in a clear and concise manner – even if they don’t read the entirety. Traditionalists and Boomers may appreciate the additional details, including the justification and business reasons for change.


5. Encourage open communication.

Be sure to promote an environment where all employees feel that they are valued, respected and their opinions matter.  Your Traditionalists and Boomers appreciate a top-down approach to communication where they are kept informed through town hall meetings and leadership briefings, and will have opportunities to ask questions.  Millennials, in particular, need to feel they are being heard. They appreciate open discussion and peer-to-peer communication through social media channels and intranet chat. It’s important for all employees to engage in conversations and knowledge sharing.


So, how do you handle generational communication differences?

Tags: Spitfire Communications, Employee Communications, hotspot, Employee Engagement, Generational Differences

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