If you’ve got an alphabet-soup of generations at your business, you’ve probably struggled with making your message fit your audience. However, the problem may not be with the content, but with the recipients: specifically, how your message is being received after it has gone through their “gen filters.”
You Say “Po-Tay-To,” I say “Po-Tah-To”
Each generation has its own behavioral profiles when it comes to the work environment. Think of them as a “personality dialect”: only instead of being about the way they speak, it’s more about the way they hear. And that is influenced by the personality attitudes specific to each generation.
Let’s start with the oldest members of the crowd: the Baby Boomers. These post-war “babies” were born between 1945 and 1954, with a second category, referred to as the Baby Boomers II, appearing on the scene between 1955 and 1965.
The two groups are big on face-time and less focused on work flexibility or work/life balance trends, wrote Sally Kane in The Multigenerational Workforce: Managing and Motivating Multiple Generations in the Legal Workplace. Work is work — and the whole touchy-feely atmosphere may not be as big a hit with them as with their younger counterparts, although they do like the praise and perks that come with performance.
- How do Boomers like to communicate? Memo first sent to those on an alphabetized distribution list, followed by a phone call to schedule an appointment to meet.
- Want to loop them in on a corporate decision? Baby Boomers tend to follow a process before providing input, but let the boss ultimately decide.
- Want to give them feedback? They prefer the formalized annual performance appraisals and regular 1-1 meetings.
Next comes Generation X, born in that ten-year period between 1966 and 1976. Sometimes called the “middle-child generation,” they may be the quiet group but that belies their influence, wrote Anna Sofia Martin in Forbes’ The Undetected Influence Of Generation X. According to Martin, they are taking on management roles and mentoring younger coworkers—and, by the way, are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S., with more than a third holding college degrees.
More importantly from a communication perspective, this is group not known for blowing their own horn—and prefer if no one else did it as well, said Martin. Don’t expect them to appreciate being highlighted for their achievements in the company newsletter or welcome the teamwork approach. They’d rather just keep on truckin’—following the “work smarter, not harder” principle as they slowly but surely advance to the C-suite level.
- If Xs are in charge of a meeting—or need to be part of one—forget the Boomer-style memo/call/meeting approach. They are more likely to send an email or instant message and meet virtually.
- Also, if they are part of a decision-making process, they prefer using technology and nontraditional ways of arriving at decision, but are willing to let the savviest member make the final choice.
- Time for a performance assessment? They want real-time feedback so skip the annual check-up and just tell them what’s working and what isn’t right now.
The third group is Gen Y aka the Millennials, coming in between 1977 to 1994. These are the tech- aficionados, more comfortable with texting than talking. Want to communicate with them? Forget the lecture-based presentations (even if you are using Power Point) and do it via webinars and online technology, wrote Sally Kane in Common Characteristics of Generation Y Professionals: What Employers Should Know About Their Gen Y Employees. They are multi-taskers, with technology not an add-on but an integral part of their work and life.
While they are achievement-oriented, noted Kane, don’t confuse that with living to work, especially since they prize the personal family over the corporate one. They love challenges and want meaningful work—which can lead to them questioning authority (aka, the boss) if they perceive their assignments as same old-same old. They also crave attention, feedback and guidance. Keep them in the loop (again, via technology not with in-person sessions) if you want them stay involved.
- Want to meet with Millennials? Go the smart-phone route—text or instant messages—and don’t expect them to welcome any in-person face-time sessions.
- Need them to be part of the decision-making? You’re in luck, since they are skilled in group decision-making, willing to work through options and decide together.
- Time for a work review? They can’t get it fast enough. They want instant feedback—put the score on a screen, just like a video game.
Skip the “One-Size-Fits-All” Communication Strategy
Given that, according to an EY study, 75% of managers surveyed agreed that it’s a challenge to manage multi-generational teams, anything companies can do to address the communication-style differences can only benefit the organization as a whole as well as its individual members.
Start with generational differences training to help management understand the different perceptions and preferences inherent within those groups, then consider using tailored communications to make sure your message reaches the intended audience in a fashion that makes it most likely to be understood.
Discover what Transformation Point can do for you and your company. Take advantage of a unique opportunity to have a one-hour telephone consultation with Transformation Point founder and CEO Kevin L. King, when he’ll help you better define your challenges and provide ideas on how to address them. Call 888-202-3411 today or schedule a consultation today!