Managing a workforce that is becoming increasingly diverse in age is no small task for employers. Communication is one of the most difficult aspects of overseeing a workplace comprising as many as four generations of employees. That’s because communication styles often represent the greatest difference among workers from different generations.
Below is a guide to generational differences and advice on how to manage multigenerational employee communication.
Consider how you go about your day. Do you wake up in the morning and go for a jog? Do you have coffee every morning? When do you go to work? Do you talk to your boss differently than you talk to your co-workers? Do you wear a tie every day, even though you’re not necessarily required to?
Now think about what your parents do. If you have kids and they’re old enough to work, think about what they do. Chances are, they’ll have different answers to the questions above. The ways people from various generations go about their day are examples of generational differences. Whether it’s ironing all of their clothes or reading the newspaper every morning, there are activities older generations tend to do more than younger ones, and vice versa. These distinctions show up at home and in the workplace. Older generations tend to be more reserved, while younger ones are often more interactive.
Generational differences comprise the lifestyles, habits and daily activities that one generation does differently from another.
First, different generations have different needs. For example, younger employees have different ways of learning than older employees do. Some of your younger team members might want to watch a video tutorial, while your more senior staffers might prefer a hands-on approach to learning.
Different generations also have different experiences. Older employees typically have more years of experience than younger hires. Your younger employees might be able to use their recently earned degrees to help with a project in the office, but your older employees have years of stories, hands-on experience and institutional knowledge that will benefit your organization.
Another generational difference is in incentives. Your younger staffers might want to be recognized differently than your older ones. In fact, some employees value appreciation over bonuses, and their preference may have to do with whether they’re Generation Z or a Baby Boomer.
Because of these differences, you cannot approach all of your employees the same way and expect each of them to react the same way. Recognize that all of your employee age groups are different, and so your communication with them should be somewhat different too. The goal, however, is to find ways to bridge the gap.
Below are tips for communicating with and managing employees from different generations.
A communication app is great for quick conversations, but you’ll likely need a video conferencing service for larger team-wide virtual communications across your organization. Check out our overview of the best video conferencing services to find several worthy options.
Effectively managing a multigenerational team means accommodating your employees’ needs and taking into account their varied communication preferences. That doesn’t mean you have to cater to every individual person’s preferred style, especially if they don’t directly report to you, but it does involve recognizing the differences among your employees’ age groups and developing holistic solutions that allow you to manage and communicate with your entire workforce, as well as on more individual levels.
Identify trends across generations and seek to balance several communication styles that suit everyone. Besides a more cohesive and productive team, you’ll find your workplace benefits from inclusive communication in many other ways – such as increased diversity, stronger morale and a greater eagerness to collaborate.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and reporting in this article.