Building Strong Intergenerational Communication In The Workplace

Good communication is crucial to the success of any business. One of the communication challenges that many businesses face today is an intergenerational workforce. People are working longer and retiring later in life, which means that today’s labor force is more generationally diverse than ever. 

Each of these generations brings valuable abilities, skills, and talents to your business but they also have very different communication styles. These differences in communication and culture can be a challenge among you and your employees, creating potential conflict and disharmony. By understanding the core values of each generation and what’s important to them, you’ll be able to effectively manage communication across generations and work together as one cohesive team.  

Multi-generations and Challenges in the Workplace

There are five distinct generations in today’s workforce, with each era having different attitudes and values. They also each have their own preferred methods of communicating and obtaining information.

These communication differences among the generations can lead to misunderstandings and potential work conflicts. Older generations prefer communicating face to face or through phone calls and email while younger generations choose online communication and are quick to embrace new technology. These differing preferences can sometimes make it difficult for you to manage the sharing of information among your employees, taking up valuable time and often creating tension.

Here’s a breakdown of the core values and work ethics among the generations:

Generation Z – 1996 to now

The youngest age group just entering the workforce, Generation Z is similar to Millennials – they’re motivated by being included in team projects where everyone works together to reach a goal. Generation Z is all about using text and FaceTime to communicate.

Core values and work ethic

Generation Z’ers have a strong sense of self-expression and independence and want to be fulfilled in their jobs. They look to mentors for guidance and knowledge and are looking for job security.

Millennials – 1977 to 1995

Millennials work best in a relaxed and flexible work environment. They like to work in teams and are good at multitasking and blocking out distractions around them. This generation prefers to communicate through text and online and are quick to research any information they need using Google.

Core values and work ethic

Millennials are focused on both professional and personal achievement, bringing their ambition and creativity to the workplace. 

Generation X – 1965 to 1976

Generation X’ers are perhaps the most self-reliant of all the generations, coming from homes where both parents worked. They place a lot of value on a work-life balance, with more focus on family than on their job. They communicate best through text and email rather than face to face.

Core values and work ethic

Generation X’ers require both direction and structure in their job, asking questions to confirm information and stay on track. They have high job expectations for both themselves and their coworkers. 

Baby Boomers – 1946 to 1964

Sometimes referred to as both the “me” and “workaholic” generation, Baby Boomers often put work ahead of their personal life. Enjoying team involvement and multitasking, this generation prefers to communicate through phone calls or face to face, printing out paper copies to accompany digital information.

Core values and work ethic

Baby Boomers have a strong work ethic and believe that anything is possible. They value personal growth and are highly ambitious, putting a lot of high quality into their work.

Traditionalists – born before 1945 

Also known as the “silent” generation, Traditionalists were raised to be “seen and not heard.” They bring this to the workplace, being hard-working and rarely questioning what’s asked of them. This generation still prefers to communicate over the phone or in writing and have a harder time than other generations in accepting new technology in the workplace.

Core values and work ethic

Traditionalists are dedicated to their job and have a high level of discipline and respect for those in authority. They put their job first and can be relied on to see any task through to competition with high standards. 

Effective Communication Across Generations

While bringing together five generations of employees in the workplace isn’t always easy, there are some things you can do to create positive and effective communication among all members of your team.

As well as understanding the motivations and values of each generation, both you and your employees can use these 4 tips to promote better communication:

1. Avoid generational bias

For everyone on your team to communicate well you’ll need to avoid focusing on generational bias. Stereotyping individuals based on their age and generation can lead to unfair judgment and unproductive working relationships. Instead, acknowledge generational differences and consider the strengths and motivations of each team member to build rapport across all ages.

2. Build intergenerational teams

When putting together teams for projects and tasks use a variety of generations with individuals who bring different skills and ideals to the table. This creates a team that’s more innovative and diverse, which can bring about new and creative ways of coming up with solutions to problems. 

3. Initiate good communication

Focus on using strong and efficient communication skills for collaboration throughout your business:

  • Positive body language – Use a combination of expressions and gestures, such as open arms and eye contact, to show attention and interest.
  • Active listening – Practicing active listening can help you understand what’s really being said.
  • Show empathy – Empathy when communicating shows that you understand the other person’s perspective and point of view which can help you build a stronger connection.
  • Clarity and confidence – Being clear and confident leads to transparency and expectations that can’t be misunderstood.

4. Use a variety of communication methods

Compromise when it comes to communication throughout your business and utilize a few methods to share information and keep employees updated. This includes digital, verbal, and written communication. Using several platforms is always better when your business is intergenerational. This way you can be sure all your employees get the information they need in a communication style that they’re most comfortable using.

Final Words

Successfully managing an intergenerational workforce is all about understanding the differences in communication and work styles among your employees. You’ll be able to improve both productivity and morale by using the tips here to improve communication, making the most of the skills and values of both the younger and older generations in your workplace. 

Take a look at the visual guide from TurboTenant below for a summary of these tips:

 

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