How to Navigate Multi-Generational Communication in a Workplace Environment

In what is perhaps something never seen before in history, our workforce is made up of 4 different generational age groups. From baby boomers to Gen Z, this multi-generational workforce creates a dynamic environment where workers of all ages can thrive, but one where they also have to communicate.

Strong communication is one of the fundamental necessities in any workplace to ensure everyone is following the project and being as productive as possible. It’s also important to be aware of different generational age groups when it comes to client communication. 

This article will explore the generational age groups in the workforce today, compare the different communication styles, and offer some tips on overcoming these differences.

How to Navigate Multi-Generational Communication in a Workplace Environment

Generational groups by age

There could be 4 different generations in your workplace, or you could onboard a client from any of these groups. Hence, it’s important you’re aware of the characteristics of each generation:

Baby boomer characteristics

Baby boomers refer to the generation that was born between 1946 and 1964. This generation didn’t grow up with technology. While many in the workforce have learned to embrace the shift to a digital workplace, phone communication is still often the preferred method.

Baby boomers tend to lean toward in-person communication. Messaging apps and emails aren’t usually baby boomers’ favorite methods, and they tend to be much more formal when using these forms of communication than their younger colleagues. They’re also more comfortable with formal meetings and sticking with well-practiced processes. 

Gen X characteristics

Generation X is defined as the generation born between 1965 and 1980. This generation has spent more of its working life using email and computer programs. Gen X is more comfortable with digital communication than baby boomers but still prefers communication by phone or email. 

Gen X enjoys streamlined processes, looking for more efficient ways to do things. It likes to keep communication slightly more informal than its preceding generation, preferring phone calls and emails.

Millennials characteristics

Millennials or Gen Y refer to the generation born between 1981 and 1996. Many millennials grew up or spent their teenage years using cell phones and the internet. For this reason, texting and messaging apps are prevalent among this generation. Millennials are also responsible for digital communication being so popular in the workplace today.

This generation likes to get information as quickly and easily as possible, so they are just as keen to streamline processes as Gen X. Phone calls and formal meetings aren’t as popular, and 44% said that instant messaging and social media were their preferred communication methods.

Gen Z characteristics

Gen Z refers to those born after 1997, and it is the newest generation in the workforce. This generation has grown up with more technology than any other, using tablets and smartphones from a young age. 

However, unlike millennials, much of this generation prefers in-person and video communication.

colleagues working together in light modern workspace

Tips for overcoming generational differences in communication in the workplace

On the one hand, a multi-generational workforce creates a place where different ideas can come together, leading to more learning opportunities and innovation. However, there are also several differences to overcome. Here are a couple of points to bear in mind:

Take individual preferences on board

Being aware of the different forms of communication means you can make adjustments for different people. While large group communication requires a common communication method, you can ask employees or clients for their preferred communication method if you’re having a one-on-one or a smaller group meeting. 

Doing this ensures everyone is comfortable and has an opportunity to communicate using their preferred style. When it does come to large group meetings, try to change it up so that everyone is catered for. If your team has a weekly meeting, you could set one week up in the office when everyone is present and the next week on a video call. 

Make sure all employees respect different generations’ values

In a multi-generational workplace, it’s important that each generation respects the values and preferences of the other. It may be that some people have to compromise or step out of their comfort zone. Try to remind people that working with different generations is a learning opportunity and encourage open-mindedness.

Final thoughts

There’s no doubt that a multi-generational workforce or client base comes with its challenges. The first step is to be aware of the different communication methods preferred by the generational age groups in your workforce. It’s also a good idea to inform staff members of the different types of communication and remind them they might need to make compromises. 

It’s good to offer different forms of communication for your staff or client base to ensure everyone is comfortable and that there is strong communication within your business.


Sources:
https://www.leadersinstitute.com/differences-between-generations-and-style-of-communication/
https://www.providesupport.com/blog/four-generations-of-customers/
https://www.kitces.com/blog/best-practices-in-client-communication-for-financial-advisors/
http://www.wmfc.org/uploads/GenerationalDifferencesChart.pdf
https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/8-communication-skills-overcome-the-generation-gap.html
https://www.journalofaccountancy.com/newsletters/2019/apr/communicate-multiple-generations.html