Communicating Across Generations4 min read
Today’s workplace is made up of employees from four generations. Each generation has their own expectations and preferences when it comes to their work environment. For many reasons including technology, modifications to organizational structures and working arrangements, communication at work has changed significantly. The days of using face-to-face communication as the primary mode of sharing information are long gone and various other forms have taken its place. The challenge is that not everyone wants to be communicated with and to in the same way. Therefore, it is critical to understand the communication preferences of each generation and take them into consideration when conducting business.
Let’s explore the four generations, their history and some suggestions for communicating effectively with each of them.
This generation was born before 1946 and is currently age 62 and over. The radio was a large part of their lives and often information regarding world news and events was received this way. You may hear traditionalist talk about sitting around as a family after dinner and listening to the radio.
Many of the communication preferences that the traditionalists were raised with still exist for them today. They prefer a more formal style of communication. While traditionalists do utilize technology for work purposes, they still prefer communication to take place face-to-face, over the phone or through conventional mail systems. They also like the content of the information they receive to provide detail and data.
When setting up meetings contact them directly via phone or through their administrative assistant
After a meeting, leave a copy of information with them and ask how they would prefer that you follow-up
Send them hand written notes
Keep presentations more formal, with limited amount of flash
Avoid the use of acronyms, slang and foul language
Baby Boomers were born between the years of 1946 to 1964. They are currently ages 43-61. The television came along during this generation and the way information was received took on a new meaning. Baby Boomers recall the black-and-white television with the turn dial and only three main channels. This generation has certainly embraced the use of technology for communication purposes but when surveyed, their preference is still face-to-face. In the workplace, they are disappointed with the amount of face-to-face communication that has been replaced by technology. They tend to prefer a more semi-formal style but often want details. Baby Boomers are very relationship oriented so it’s important to take time to establish rapport and show a personal interest in them.
Make presentations more of a conversation and less of a speech
If you are selling a product or service, link it to the business mission and impact on people
Allow plenty of time for questions
Solicit their opinion, ask for their input
Use phone or email to set up meetings, follow-up
Gen Xers were born during the years of 1965 to 1981 and are currently age 27-42. There was quite a technology boom during this generation with the advancement of the personal computer in the early 1980’s. Gen Xers have a more informal approach to communication and tend to rely heavily on the use of email. They also have a more direct style and like to get down to business quickly.
Be direct and straightforward
Show respect for their time, avoid too much small talk
When presenting, start with the bottom line. Tell them up front what you need or expect from them.
Do your homework and be well prepared
Determine next steps prior to a meetings conclusion and ask for their preference on moving forward.
Gen Y was born during the years of 1982 to 2000 and are currently age 7-27. The concept of the internet was born and information is now available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The primary mode of communication for Gen Y is instant and through the use of technology. They have cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging and blogs, just to name a few. They are vey accustomed to getting information when they want it and have taken the concept of networking to a whole new level with social websites such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter.
Take a positive, collaborative approach
Ask for their ideas and input
Avoid treating them as a child or inexperienced
Utilize technology as much as possible
Don’t pressure for on-the-spot decisions, allow time for reflection and further suggestions
Building your awareness and understanding of the four generations and their preferences related to communication styles can be extremely beneficial in the business world. Everyone has less time on their hands. Use these communication suggestions to help enhance existing relationships and bridge gaps when forming new ones.