How to flex your multi-generational comms skills

Sometimes the workplace is like a Love is Blind episode. You can never quite see your colleagues (especially if you’re in a virtual, camera-off culture) – but there are a lot of other ways to get to know them. The way your colleagues communicate with you can be very revealing.

Do your colleagues or clients text or email? Start with “Hey” or “Hello”? Prefer to hop on a call or meet in-person? 

Chances are, you’ll notice each employee’s communication style is informed by their generation. We’re talking formality, frequency and medium. To make the biggest impact as you communicate, you’ll need to meet the needs of each gen in the workplace. Each generation’s preferences were formed by their experiences with world events, technology and cultural values. 

Let’s review how to think strategically about each generation so you can connect with and motivate your stakeholders, colleagues and clients.

Generation Z (1997+) & Millennials (1981-1996)

These digital natives are extremely comfortable with online comms and they tend to expect quick responses to their messages (probably from never having to be patient waiting for a dial-up modem to connect…). They appreciate casual, to-the-point emails, as well as transparent communication in-person or via Zoom. 

Think of it this way: if you grow up communicating with iMessages filled with emoji’s, short TikTok videos packed with info and video calls on the regular – that completely changes the way you absorb and share information. These communications are authentic, short, punchy and very visual. These are important elements to include in your communications with Gen Z.

The same goes for Millennials. Many Millennial managers say they prefer concise, digital communications (email or DMs) when communicating with direct reports. And about that phone call…have you ever called a Millennial and were sure they were staring at their phone but didn’t answer? According to Bank My Cell, this gen often leaves you hanging because they find phone calls to be disruptive and time consuming.

Generation X (1965-1980) & Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Gen X is kind of like a bridge between Gen Z/Millennials and Baby Boomers. Gen X began using technology while they were young and are fairly comfortable with changes in tech (although probably nowhere near as comfy as Gen Z hopping from one trend to another).

Baby boomers, on the other hand, grew up with clunky and expensive technology. While many may prefer in-person interactions and communication formalities, there are those who have kept up with the changes – likely with a little help from their Gen Z colleagues.

How you can bridge the divide

When communicating to multiple generations at once, you’ll need to modify your approach to bridge the gap between everyone. For example, if you’re communicating change at work, try using multiple mediums to get your message across including concise explainer emails, in-person townhalls, short videos with a strong narrative, one-on-one meetings and internal blogs with open comments. 

Other times, you can stick to what works best for the specific needs of the person you’re speaking with. Remember, you can always get feedback to better understand your stakeholders’ unique mix of communication preferences. 

If you’d like help developing your cross-gen communication strategy, we’re here to chat.

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