Today’s workplace is markedly different than it was a decade or so ago. Since people are living and working longer than ever before, the modern workplace can have as many as five generations all working under the same roof. Each generation grew up in a different world, with a different viewpoint, and the impact of this on how businesses operate has been significant. Nowhere are the generational differences more evident than in the styles of communication.
In order to ensure that your business is operating as smooth and efficient as possible, you need to be able to effectively communicate with all of your staff. To do this you will need to get to know your people and be flexible in how you deliver information to them. Like the individuals on your team, you will have your favorite way to communicate, but as a leader, you know it isn’t about you. It’s about building up your people and forming a team that can get things done.
Let’s take a look at the five different generations and how you, as a leader, can best communicate with them:
The Traditionalist generation was born before 1946 and are true to their name. They typically prefer face-to-face conversations. Be sure to give them your undivided attention and make eye contact with them.
· Baby Boomers
Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964 and have witnessed many changes throughout their careers. Like the Traditionalist, the Baby Boomer prefers face to face interactions but tend to be more flexible. They have adapted to using email, texting and even social media, but still prefer personal interaction.
· Generation X
Gen X was born between 1965 and 1976 and are usually more comfortable with technology than the previous generations. Email made its appearance in the early 70’s, so by the time the Gen X’er was an adult, email was becoming mainstream. The Gen X generation likes personal interaction as well, but is very comfortable with emailing as a primary form of communication. They have also adapted to using text and social media as forms of communication.
· Generation Y
Generation Y, commonly referred to as Millennials, were born between 1977 and 1995. They were the first generation that grew up with computers. While they still look for one-on-one feedback on their work performance, they usually prefer informal styles of communicating like email and texting.
· Generation Z
Generation Z were born after 1996 and later and practically grew up with a smart phone in their hand. They understand the value and importance of a face-to-face conversation. However, being proficient at social media and up-to-date in the latest technology, they prefer texting over email and conversations.
As you can see, preferred methods of communication can differ significantly from one generation to another. It is important to understand that none of them are wrong, or superior to another. The point is to communicate; the way in which you do it is secondary. The key is to intentionally design a workplace culture that encourages open communication between everyone, regardless of age or position. As leader, you must take initiative and talk openly with every single person on your team. Acknowledge the differences, but emphasize what they all have in common. Encourage your team members to talk to one another, and learn from one another.
Once you have openly acknowledged to your team that everyone has their preferred way of communicating, relay to them the necessity of creating a communication system that everyone will use to communicate with each other. This is crucial, and should be documented in writing. There is nothing wrong with people having a favorite style of communication, but without a single agreed upon system through which all of your team members will communicate with each other, you will have chaos. Perhaps you will create a system that uses email for general topics, group texting for quick release of info or encouragement, and phone calls for more pressing issues like call-offs and emergencies. It really does not matter how you set it up, as long as you set it up.
It seems that many view a multigenerational workforce as a problem to be solved, but we have found it to be a wonderful opportunity for learning and growth.
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