Tips for Better Intergenerational Communication in the Workplace
January 20, 2015 | Staffing Blog
It’s no secret today’s workplace is diverse when it comes to generations. We have everyone from a 65-year-old experienced worker to a 25-year-old employee whose ink is barely dry on her college degree. And then there’s everyone in between.
There are plenty of differences just on the technology front. Baby boomers didn’t grow up with smartphones, texting and email. For Generation X and Y, it’s now the way of the world.
Generation X (born between 1965-1979) and Generation Y or Millennials (born between 1980-2000) are now a big piece of the workplace with those in Generation X moving into managerial and high-level positions and Generation Y getting a foothold as young professionals.
The trick for many is how to communicate with the younger Millennials – some of whom are just starting to enter the workforce. Here are some tips to bridge the intergenerational communication gap:
- Ditch the formality. With email and texting a part of daily life for Millennials, they opt for short messages and abbreviations. That doesn’t mean being sloppy or unprofessional is OK, it just means taking a look at your culture and maybe reevaluating what formalities are truly necessary (Can you let the formal memo go?).
- Adopt new communication platforms. Many people in their 20s and early 30s rely heavily on texting and are likely to respond faster to a text message than a phone call or email. Feel free to use a worker’s preferred communication method. That goes both ways, though. Younger workers should take note if an older co-worker or supervisor prefers a phone call or in-person conversation and be respectful of their preference.
- Share your values. While older workers tend to have a strong work ethic and value hard work, a younger generation likes to feel connected to their work. They prefer to work for companies that share their core beliefs and care around the world around it. By communicating your company culture and belief system, you have a better chance of attracting and retaining younger workers.
- A pat on the back. Raised in a time of “everyone’s a winner,” this younger generation of workers seeks praise, feedback and guidance. Strike a balance of this in your office. Don’t dismiss the younger employees as needy; realize what motivates them and give them an extra pat on the back. But don’t go overboard; now’s the time for them to learn every action doesn’t necessarily warrant a certificate of appreciation.
Certainly balancing such a diverse blend of generations can be challenging for employers but it can also be an opportunity to bring in fresh ideas and perspectives. It’s a chance to try something new or reevaluate your core mission, communication system and employee feedback process.
Here’s an article from Forbes.com with additional tips on managing intergenerational communication.