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Ernst and Young report that 75% of managers say that managing a multi-generational workforce is a challenge. Managers find formulating messages that are relevant to every generation to be a difficult task. Since every generation has a unique DNA. How do you bridge the gap?
We spoke with workplace psychologist, Brandon Smith on this topic and he suggests one important way to reach the multi-generational workforce is to start with your communication plan.
Before starting to revamp your employee communication plan, seek first to understand generational differences.
Using Employee Communication to Bridge Multi-Generational Workforce Gaps
We asked Brandon:
How do you bridge the multi-generational gap in employee communication?
The biggest thing is to make sure that the messaging that is going out is relevant to everyone you are speaking to.
Here are a few other tips on this topic:
- Find a way to get your message out to everyone at the same time- Town halls are the best if you can do that. Send out something real so you can connect with everybody.
- Be Authentic- For example, When I ask MBA’s averaging ages 27-28 what does authentic mean they come back, and they say it means to be real and raw. People can tell if you’re being real or not.
- Don’t be overly scripted with your message- Strike that balance of being professional but also making sure the message is not overly scripted. Don’t read off notes. Have your bullet points and be able to cover them and then open it up for questions. Try to and engage them in an honest real way. For boomers, this is really hard because they’re a polished bunch when they want a message. They want perfectly polished language and they want it to show up dressed really nice and that turns off a millennial population.
- Be relatable- The Millennial generation and Gen Z want to feel like they’re being talked to as an equal and that their voice really matters. Find ways to make the conversation feel more like a conversation. Don’t let you message come off as being one-sided.
Words to the Wise in Employee Communication Planning
What common mistakes do you see companies making when trying to improve their employee communication plan?
The big one would be a lack of consistency. John Cutter HR guru in the change management space says “That’s why change initiatives typically fail people under communicate or they send inconsistent messages.” That’s really what happens. People stop communicating what’s going on and stop communicating the vision or strategy. They stop communicating what they see. They get so caught up in what they’re doing as leaders. So, they grab the steering wheel really tight and they forget to tell everyone on the bus this is why I’m doing what I’m doing. I think that inconsistent messages are the number one weakness. I would say that weakness is probably true in over 90% of organizations.
This also ties into transparency because leaders get ready to send out a message and they say “yeah but I’ve got to them about this really big iceberg and I don’t really want to do that so they say I tell you what why we don’t just skip the message this week.” Leaders need to operate in vulnerability and transparency. I have a therapy background and I see that being transparent is a problem many leaders have. You’ve got to be vulnerable enough to say “hey we’ve got a problem coming up and I don’t know how to fix it but we’ll do it together.” And you’ve got to have enough courage to say that. Vs letting people think you have it all together and have all of the answers. That’s not what people want from their leader. That does not make her/him compelling. That does not invite others in to solve the problem with you. It goes back to Brené Brown’s work on vulnerability. There’s so much power in vulnerability although it does not feel powerful at the moment.
Recognizing the Multi-Generational Workforce
Your employee communication and recognition strategies should support one another. Do take into consideration the preferences of each generation when deciding how you will recognize them. In order to have success in recognizing the multi-generational workforce, it’s important that you are using multiple forms of recognition and also that you remain consistent in your execution.
Below is an example of how the many types of recognition can work together:
Boomers: Because Boomers are more traditional in nature, they prefer a more classic approach like years of service. But because they also prefer personal communication peer to peer recognition is also effective.
Generation X: In the chart above it outlines that this generation is a little distrustful of authority. A recognition strategy that could work well with them is on the spot recognition. It shows that a leader is noticing them and what they need. This helps to build a level of trust between the manager and employee.
Millennials & Gen Y: These generations are very tech savvy and feeling a part of a bigger community is very important to them. A form of recognition that works well among this group is social recognition.
Creating a culture of recognition is key to recognizing and retaining the multi-generational workforce. All generations want to be feel appreciated and connected to their organizations. Every generation wants to come into a workplace where they feel welcome and the atmosphere is positive.