Strategies to Bridge Communication in a Cross Generational Workplace

by Anastasia C. Valentine on October 5, 2015




How do you clearly communicate anything in a workplace that mixes two or more generations? Today’s workforce is a diverse tribe of Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials, presenting an unparalleled challenge to companies large and small.

Each generation comes with its own workplace advantages and disadvantages. The key to communicating with different generations in the workplace is to recognize their differences and foster strategies that unify rather than divide.

Communicate the Big Things Face-to-Face

The perception of Millennials is that their primary form of communication is done through social media and text messaging. In their private lives, this is definitely the case, but does their predilection for digital communication crossover into corporate America? In fact, studies have indicated that Millennials do value a level of face-to-face communication, under certain circumstances.

When Millennials want to learn new skills, they are more inclined to want in-person learning rather than e-Learnings or virtual research. What are their preferred learning methods? According to an IBM study, Millennials’ top three choices for learning new information are through conferences/trade events, in-person classroom training, and working alongside experienced colleagues.

When presenting complex information to any generation, online training (especially without the ability to submit questions) is not the most effective form of education. Classroom training or one-on-one mentoring are the most effective strategies. This approach encourages employees to ask questions and get elaboration and clarification on more difficult aspects of the material.

Limit the Amount of Formal Meetings

Despite the fact that employees across generations like face-to-face learning, they have very different feelings about structured meetings. The most common complaint is that the time is not well spent. Many Millennials and Gen Xers feel they could have achieved the same outcome in half the time through emails or text messaging.

However, dispensing with scheduled in-person or over-the-phone meetings altogether is not the solution. Some projects benefit from taking dedicated time to work through the details together. In those instances, meetings run more efficiently when there is a clear agenda, a concrete end time, and employee brainstorming in advance. That way, ideas can evolve at a much greater speed and with steadier control.

Encourage Baby Boomers to Share Information

Though 65% of Baby Boomers intend to work beyond the age of 65, there still is an impending shift facing the workforce. Clear strategies regarding succession planning need to be established if a transfer of critical information is to be attained. Mentorships are an ideal way to impart information to Generation X and Millennials and they come with the added bonus of fostering more direct lines of communication internally.

Both groups are receptive to the idea of learning from others. Studies find that 64% of Generation X and 56% of Millennials regularly solicit several opinions before they put a plan into action. They want to make decisions with the best information and a strong mentorship program can achieve that.

As Baby Boomers reveal their lessons to younger generations, team camaraderie is fortified and communication is strengthened. However, it should never feel as if the Baby Boomer has become a surrogate parent for junior employees. There should be an exchange of ideas on both sides.

Thriving Businesses Adapt to Changing Demographics

Over the next 5 to 15 years, we are going to see radical shifts in employee demographics. This will clearly make communication a trial and error process. Baby Boomers will be a distant memory, Generation X and Millennials will overtake all senior roles, and even Generation Z (the school-aged kids of today) will emerge into entry level positions. For a company to remain on top, it is important to develop or hire promising leaders who can implement cutting-edge communication techniques as the work world changes.

Looking for new employees to improve your communication between different generations while advancing your bottom line? Reach out to Resource 1 today. We work with all types of consultants in the IT market and can quickly find candidates that fit your working culture.