In as much as the workplace is becoming more culturally diverse, it is also becoming more generationally diverse than ever. The distinctions between each generation that comes into the workplace are clear, particularly due to the fact that technology has changed how each generation communicates and interacts with each other.
While baby boomers did not grow up with texting, email and smartphones, generations X and Y are comfortable with new technology. Generation Y or millennials in particular are now graduating from school and joining the workforce, and are even more adaptable to technology such as smartphone applications, instant messaging, SMS alerts and others. They expect technology to be present in the workplace, and are more likely to look for greener pastures when the technological tools being offered in a company are not up to date or efficient enough.
The challenge now is how communication is instigated and promoted between generations unfamiliar with new technology and generations who expect it.
Here are some tips to bridge the intergenerational gap in the workplace:
1. Sharing each one’s values.
Older staff members tend to value strong work ethics and hard work. They have always achieved things through persistence and hard work. Instead of taking shortcuts, they prefer to do things the way they are “supposed” to be done.
On the other hand, younger employees value engagement and empowerment. They want to feel committed and satisfied with the company they work with. They want to work for organizations that share the same values and beliefs they do.
In order to get both generations on board, share their values. Value hard work in as much as you value engagement.
2. Ditching the formality.
SMS alerts, email and instant messaging are vital forms of communication for millennials. These forms of communication promote more informal messages which are typically shorter and which contain more abbreviations. These forms of communication are not excuses for sloppiness or unprofessionalism, however While a certain formality is still encouraged in the workplace, organizations should re-evaluate which formalities in the workplace are still necessary and which could be let go. For example, think about whether or not your company still needs to hand out printed memos or if you can replace it with more informal tools such as group chats and text messages.
3. Adopting news communication methods and tools.
While older generations may still rely on face-to-face communication or phone conversations, younger generations prefer to utilize text messages and instant messaging.
Compromise means understanding what each staff member is most comfortable using. Do not look at one communication method as better than the other. If your older employees still want to be notified through phone calls or in person, inform them regarding important news and updates through these methods. If your younger employees prefer SMS alerts or email, reach them through these platforms. Remember that having a multitude of platforms is always better than having only one way of reaching employees.
4. Acknowledgement and encouragement.
All employees want to be acknowledged and encouraged in the workplace. Millennials, in particular, were raised during a time when everyone was seen as a winner, so they are motivated by encouragement and praise. While the older generation may not seem like they need acknowledgement and encouragement as much as the younger generation, do not forget to give them the same attention – whether it be in person, through email or through SMS alerts.
Remember that acknowledgement and encouragement speaks to the values of both generations. It speaks to the value older generations place on hard work and persistence, and it speaks to the value that younger generations place on engagement and commitment.