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Breaking Through Generational Communication Barriers

10/23/2018

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Businesses of all sizes and industries are dealing with communication barriers. Over the past 20 years, the workplace has undoubtedly experienced more change than ever. With the addition of email, mobile phones, mobile workspaces, laptops, tablets, social networking, and even virtual offices, the business world we once knew is over.

Combine all of our technology, and now you have the ability to work from anywhere, anytime, and with people from across the globe, possibly being even more productive than you were before. So with increased ways to communicate, communication should be a simple task between employees and their clients now, right? The answer depends on who you ask.

Millennials feel the more technology the better as they are always on and working. Gen X’ers, who are only one generation older than Y’s, use technology, but see it more as a convenience and are not always connected. Millennials like to email, text and tweet, and sometimes lack in the ability to read non-verbal cues. And then you have Gen X’ers who use these tools, but share much less, which can cause issues with the Y generation who have trouble with tone of voice, pauses and non-verbal cues. This can lead to extreme miscommunication in the workplace.

How can you help your cross-generational teams communicate?

  1. If employees have an issue, talk will start around the water cooler. Address issues head on by talking directly to the employees involved.
  2. Cater to all communication styles.
    • For those who want to connect in person, try “Email Free Fridays" and encourage an office lunch or coffee hour.
    • For those who love email, try sending special email offers for local restaurants and attractions.
  3. Encourage employee communication through brainstorming sessions and record all information visibly through white boards and digitally through apps like Evernote.

As a manager, it’s key to note different work and personality styles. When you recognize this, and as a result, alter the way you work with your employees, they will appreciate your efforts and work harder for you.

How can you effectively manage generational teams?

Effectively knowing and understanding how to manage generationally can lead to a stronger, more productive workplace. Here are tips in managing the new, younger workforce. Please note, not all individuals in a generation fit every generational trait, but as a whole, the following can help you manage your team.

  1. Provide structure, but allow flexibility.
    Millennials want structure, and are highly effective when you tell them hours you want them to work, and the projects you need them to complete. But they are looking for work life balance. They work hard, but are not looking to work a 60-hour work-week. They have numerous things going on outside of work, and expect to have the time to take part.

  2. Provide a fun and productive, employee-focused workplace.
    Millennials thrive in team settings, and work well with others whether it’s on a project, out to lunch or even in networking settings. They want structure and connections to their managers, but they excel in environments that they enjoy and feel they can grow in.

  3. Give them regular feedback, performance reviews are not enough.
    Millennials look for frequent, if not daily, feedback. They want to hear from their superiors on how they are doing and why their work matters. Annual or quarterly reviews are not enough, but are very important. Millennials will provide stronger work for your organization if you review all work, and help them grow.

  4. Change is okay, so capitalize on that!
    You finally have a team of individuals who are not afraid of change. This generation has seen many changes in the workplace and the world varying from advances in technology and extreme changes in the “normal” office setting. If you see your company is evolving, form a committee with millennials to foster this change.

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