What is the first thing you are taught in communicating and presenting?
Know your audience!
How well do we truly know our audience when we send out email after email to our employees? Most companies have a good sense of gender split, nationalities etc. but how many are taking time to look at the number of generations in their workplace, and more importantly, how they think and what they value? You see, what we experience during our lives influences not only who we are, but also how we think, what we value and how we choose to spend our time. When we know and understand these things about our employees and work colleagues, we stand a greater chance of not only getting our messages heard but people being open to truly listening, absorbing and remembering.
If we take 18 to 65 years as being the typical “working years” (for now at least), then it’s safe enough to assume that many large workplaces today have up to 4 generations, shown below, working together at any given time.
Let’s consider what someone from each of these categories might look like according to what we see around us and what research tells us about generational influences.
These are not real people of course 🙂
Larry, a Baby-boomer, is an optimist or a ‘glass half-full‘ person. He’s been in the workplace for 40 years now and has spent most of that time working for one employer. He has a strong work ethic and enjoys sharing his experience with more junior employees through mentoring or career advice. He values employer loyalty most and will work hard for a manager that treats him with respect and values his contributions.
Tracy, a Gen X-er, is an independent thinker, an innovator and a strong communicator. In the workplace for nigh on 30 years, she wants trust and autonomy from her employer. Success to her, is years of working hard in her early career, in order to achieve work-life balance later and ultimately a comfortable retirement when the time comes. To Tracy, work is a ‘place you go‘ for a defined number of hours per day; time off is at home; and there is a distinct difference between the two .
Megan, a Millennial, is a melting pot of technology, empathy and sustainability. She fully expects to work for a number of employers during her working career, but will be naturally drawn to organisations led by inspirational leaders, that facilitate flexible working arrangements and demonstrate a genuine focus on the Greater Good. For Megan, work is ‘a thing you do‘. She wants to be measured by productivity; her ability to get the job done and meet goals, not by how many hours she spends in the office or the time of the day she works. The flexibility to balance work, life and community in her daily life is important.
Zoey, a Gen Z-er, has been immersed in technology and diversity from birth. She is both digitally-fluent and culturally intelligent. In this world, the internet has always existed and there is an app for everything. Zoey’s idea of a great employer is one that gives her space to explore and discover, to take risks, to fail early, and to iterate towards success. She is part of the ‘Always On‘ generation where the lines between work and rest are blurred. Work is merely ‘a state of mind‘ that one steps in and out of as needed. Her ability to successfully disconnect from work will be core to her mental health and career happiness.
So how should we communicate to such a diverse audience?
We cannot communicate every message in four or five different ways in order to appeal to everyone so the key, in my opinion, is to mix and merge different communications methods into each communication, so at least some part of every message appeals to and resonates with each of the generations. This means mixing text with images, style with substance, video with photos, hashtags with emoji’s and podcasts with hyperlinks. This works and works best when the ‘what’ of the message itself is clear and the ‘why’ is compelling. What’s are clear when the message is kept short, the language simple and the presentation memorable. Why’s are compelling when the message feels true and honest with intent for the greater good.
While the generations have many differences, there are also many commonalities; core values that stand firm throughout all the generations. Things like great leadership, integrity, meaningful work, appreciation and gratitude for work well done. Regular communication that appeal to these foundational values are sure to resonate.
Take time to celebrate multi-generational workplaces in 2019 with effective communications.
Happy New Year!