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How to Communicate with a Multigenerational Workforce

With five generations in the workforce by 2020, there’s bound to be miscommunication among employees. But do you fall into the trap that most companies do when taking on this issue?

Create Awareness

A multigenerational workforce needs to be able to identify each generation based on work ethic, leadership style, preferred communication method, etc. Defining each generation provides context for employees to understand each other. This could be done via email, a meeting or a newsletter. Here are two great resources for you to use when generating awareness:

Acknowledge Our Differences

Schedule a follow-up meeting with your department or team to discuss the initial awareness piece you sent out. In this meeting, display a time line of technology that occurred from Traditionalists to Millennials (1900’s – present). This is a great tool to facilitate discussion. Ask if anyone would like to share a story from their childhood that relates to this time line. Questions to ask:

  • When did you get your first personal computer?
  • Where were you when NASA put a man on the moon?
  • How did you first learn about the internet?

Reading about the first man on the moon is quite different from watching it on your television as it happens. Events shape our lives, which shape how we work, lead and communicate in the office.

Get Off Your Island

Most companies stop at generational differences and hope their employees can make connections from there. Essentially, you’ve left everyone on their own generation-island without the tools to communicate effectively.

Encourage employees to grab a cup of coffee with a co-worker to discuss their preferred method of communication. They’ll learn why Bob always sends an email instead of giving a call, or why Susan stops by their office when a text would suffice. Sharing your preferred method of communication with a co-worker starts an important dialog about what method is most effective, when it’s most effective and why.

Establish Group Project Communication Methods

Perhaps your team has taken on a huge project that requires four generations of employees to be in constant contact. Encourage your team to determine which method of communication makes sense for the kind of work they’re doing. Here’s a few links to great internal communication tools for your office:

From Generation to Individual

Not everyone fits the characteristics of their generation. Most people are some combination of generations or are completely unique. Ultimately, we need to move toward understanding everyone’s individual method of communication rather than assigning labels that seperate us. Understanding generations serves as a starting point to achieve this goal.

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