For the first time ever, there are now five generations of employees working alongside one another.
From Maturists – whose parents fought in the Second World War – to Generation Z, who were born after 1995 and were raised in a completely digital world, it’s now more difficult than ever for managers to find a communications channel suitable enough to reach out to every different kind of employee.
The five generations
(Born after 1995)
|Percentage in the U.K workforce||3%||33%||35%||29%||Currently employed in part-time jobs or new apprenticeships|
|Communication media||Formal letter||Telephone||Email and text message||Text of social media||Hand-held (or integrated into clothing) communication devices|
|Communication preference||Face-to-face||Face-to-face ideally, but telephone or email if required||Text messaging or email||Online and mobile (text messaging)||Facetime|
A study conducted by Dr. Paul Redmond, an expert in generational theory, suggests that Maturists and Baby Boomers prefer to be given information face-to-face, whereas recent generations of employees favour a more digital approach.
IC shouldn’t be governed by generational differences, but employers need to be sensitive to the fact that each generation has had very different experiences and education, which means they can have very different communications preferences as a result.
Baby Boomers grew up without PCs, while the internet enabled Millennials to have the answer to any question at their fingertips. It’s not surprising then, that older generations tend to prefer face-to-face communication, because the Internet was introduced to them at a later age.
It’s too impractical to have managers relay a large amount of information verbally, especially if your staff work in different locations. And while relying on email to appeal to younger generations is easy, it can be difficult to achieve the right tone, so there is a risk that the message could be misunderstood.
You should never fall into the trap of grouping colleagues into generations, for example by assuming that older people don’t know how to use mobile phones, or that younger employees are obsessed with social media, but also it is important to understand that your workforce will be extremely diverse, and there will never be a catch-all solution to getting messages out effectively.
Use a variety of channels to target all your employees – without going overboard.
For important comms, it may be useful to send out an email and a written letter, in order to get the message out to both digital and traditional employees. More relaxed comms can be integrated into channels that people like to use, such as Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter.
Social media is an ideal channel for light-hearted comms, like alerting colleagues about the Christmas party, spreading the word about a charity event or just recognising someone for a job well done. However, remember that many people do not use social media, or may not want to use their personal accounts for work, so you may need to encourage them to join in with the conversation.
Stick to variety in order to reach out to as many people as possible, while ensuring that there is one consistent channel that contains every bit of employee information. This lets colleagues rely on a source for information should they wish to seek it.
The intranet is a great channel to use as a foundation for internal comms, as long as employers ensure that every colleague has access to it. Employers could also choose to use their own digital notice board or a website such as Workplace by Facebook, as a channel to publish all internal comms.
While the intranet acts as a database for internal comms, email, Instagram and letters operate as secondary channels to reinforce information and to reach out to all generations in the workplace.
It might be useful to review your internal comms mix to make sure that the channels you are using are successfully getting information out to all and are offering colleagues the opportunity to engage with you in a meaningful way.