‘how to’ communicate with your multi-generational team

How to talk with your multi-generational teams

The hot topic on everyone’s lips right now is ‘how to’ communicate to your multi-generational team. Today our workplace has never been so versatile, exciting and challenging to be in, or lead. Look around your office, notice anything? You’re probably sitting within at least three generations. All of whom have different characteristics, aspirations, attitudes and needs we must consider. For example, the largest generation in the workplace today is the millennial generation. They’re more attuned to newer ways of thinking; it’s important to learn how we can leverage each generations skill set and ways of thinking to enhance our teams performance

This poses thrilling challenges to understand what makes each colleague’s mind tick. By doing so, we can motivate and inspire each colleague to help drive our companies and their careers forward.

understanding your multi-generational team

Each generation has experienced different things in life. It’s shaped who they are today, and so it’s important to know them and how to talk to them.

Baby Boomers

The baby boomer generation

The first generation to grow up with analogue technology, ‘Baby Boomers’ are likely to hold more senior positions within the company. This is a generation that grew up with the introduction of TV, audio-cassettes and credit cards. They’re open to change and trying new things, whilst also being able to see and understand the bigger picture. They also, surprisingly spend a large proportion of their lives using technology, and are therefore not averse to digital communication.

Generation X (the 13th Generation)

Generation X - the 13th generation

It’s almost like video games were made for this generation. Their era consisted of popular music on TV, Super Mario, the Walkman and the introduction of cable TV. During this generation, a high divorce rate showed a shift from child focused parenting to ‘self-actualisation’. The results were an adult-focused generation, with Gen X growing up without a true adult presence.

Often described as disaffected or detached, Tom Brokaw refers to Gen X as ‘The Greatest Generation’. He reported Gen Xers’ entrepreneurial tendencies helped create the high-tech industry that fuelled the 1990s economic recovery.

A 2016 study of over 2,500 office workers conducted by Workfront found that survey respondents of all ages selected those from Generation X as the hardest-working employees in today’s workforce (chosen by 60%).

Generation Y (Millennial’s)

Millennials - Generation Y

On the tip of everyone’s tongue when discussing target audiences, the Millennial generation is only just reaching middle age, and is the largest group in today’s workforce. Gen Y is, along with Gen Z, the more digitally aware group. Having grown up with the internet, they’re technically savvy and use all forms of digital channels to effectively communicate.

communicating with your multi-generational team

10 tips for leading multi-generational teams

Now we understand the three core generations, it’s now important to understand how communicating with your multi-generational team can affect them.

Why is this important? The facts speak for themselves:

Productivity improves by at least 20% when you are engaged with your colleagues/employees.

85% of our success in life is directly attributed to our communication skills.

49% of milllennials use social tools for workplace collaboration (more on this later).

40% of milllennials would pay out of their own pocket for social collaboration tools that improve technology.

Four hard-hitting stats that speaks volumes for the importance in understanding ‘how to’ communicate with your multi-generational team. As milllennials rapidly become the majority of our workplace, it’s important to understand what drives them. This will help you bring your multi-generational team closer together.

Get to know every member of your team

Our first suggestion is to take the time to talk with your colleagues and listen to what they have to say. Doing so will allow you to see the different values, styles of working and ways each like to communicate.

don’t discourage the hard-working generations

When communicating with your multi-generational team you need to consider the different ways in which each generation works.

Younger generations can be exciting to work with, due to their passion and innovative ideas. But always be sure to communicate that you can work differently but still achieve the same result. For example, new processes and ways of thinking can be misinterpreted and it’s important to establish that there is more than one way to do something right. Naturally new ideas can appear threatening, so the best thing to do is to make this a non-issue from the offset.

With earlier generations focusing on streamlining processes and using collaboration tools, this may look to others as cutting corners, so it’s important to communicate the value in these tools and ways of thinking, especially if you’re looking to become a more agile company.

establish communication channels

A common clash with multi-generational teams appears to be email versus face-to-face communication. Traditionally calling or face-to-face meetings were the means for communication in the workplace, before digital communication channels being introduced.

Make sure you highlight the importance of each and ensure that everybody is empowered to use different communication channels. Explain that the right channel is crucial to obtaining the outcome you need.

don’t restrict youthful talent and passion

It’s no secret; the Millennial generation are more vocal, outspoken and open about their beliefs, desires and dreams. This doesn’t mean to say Baby-Boomers don’t have them, but the likelihood is that they’re more content and happy with what they’ve achieved so far in life. Milllennials often show entrepreneurial instincts and ambitions, and believe that the world is their oyster.

What might appear as impatience in Millennials is more likely to be a misinformed generation. Today we’re told that to achieve what you want in life that you should move across to get higher up the career ladder quicker, and that being a ‘lifer’ isn’t the best route to career success. Whilst this may be true in some companies, more and more businesses are now promoting based upon qualifications and talent, mixed with the right experience. So if you’re able to show younger generations that there is light at the end of their tunnel, that they can progress, and that they must be more resilient, they are more likely to take that respectful approach and live longer within the organisation.

never restrict ideas

No matter how old we are we all have ideas and enjoy being creative. In order to generate the best working environment for ourselves and our team, it’s important to provide a safe environment and allow for creative expression.  You can act as a facilitator and use these opportunities to allow the youthfulness and creativity of all generations to surface. A balanced approach for both generations also offers the chance to listen to each other, as well as learn from each other. It’s important that we all have an open-mind and share experiences!

respect people and their personalities

Finally, when all is said in done, we’re all working on the same ‘big project’ – to help our company succeed. Whether this is your HR team, looking at office-happiness, to sales trying to drum up new business or the guys on the front-line doing the day-to-day nitty-gritty we all want the same thing. So let’s respect each other, what we stand for and what we aspire to. Because without each other, we wouldn’t be able to function!

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