Tag Archives: generation y

What’s the best way to connect with five generations of employees?

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



Baby Boomers


Generation X


Generation Y


Generation Z

(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
Source: Barclays

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.

Why ‘millennial’ Twitter spat needs to be taken seriously

There have always been differences between the young and not-so-young, but recently it feels like the generation gap is becoming more of a rift.

The internet has created new platforms for baby boomers, generation X and millennials to criticise each other. But the anonimity afforded by online discussion means people are less likely to hold back in their critiques.

A good example is the recently-trending Twitter hashtag #howtoconfuseamillennial.

In the tried and tested tradition of social media spats, what began as a lighthearted – albeit condescending – joke by one demographic at the expense of another, soon descended into anger and bitterness on both sides.

The butt of this particular joke was the (presumed) ignorance among millennials of anything pre-dating the digital revolution.

Tweeted photos of cassette tapes, rotary phones and other analogue icons were met with good humour by some, but left others feeling angry and patronised.

As one person Tweeted: “#howtoconfuseamillennial Post this hashtag with pics of VHS, record players, antenna, floppy disks, and other old tech I DO know how to use.”

Another commented: “#HowToConfuseAMillennial – Act like we’re totally ignorant of things we actually grew up with. I’m 29. I know/use maps, fax machines, etc.”

Twitter storms are nothing new, but this one was unusual in that it raised some serious points around how older people perceive the younger generation. Employers and comms professionals should consider this when forming or reviewing their IC strategy.

For example:

• To what extent should people’s technological preferences be factored into your strategy?
• Which is the greater risk – Alienating an audience segment by using comms channels they don’t like, or patronising them by assuming they aren’t familiar/willing to engage with those channels?

This is an issue for everyone.

Virtually every major industry now employs a large proportion of people under 30.

Percentage of Under-30s in UK workforce by industry.
Percentage of Under-30s in UK workforce by industry.

Source: CIPD, June 2015. Avoiding the demographic crunch: Labour supply and the ageing workforce.

We asked Robert Minton-Taylor, Senior Lecturer at the School of Strategy, Marketing and Communication, Leeds Business School, for his thoughts on the subject.

What are the main differences between younger people and older people in the way they prefer to receive information?

Robert Minton-Taylor, senior lecturer at Leeds Business School.
Robert Minton-Taylor, senior lecturer at Leeds Business School.

“Email among young people is an everyday part of life. Checking email is the first thing they do in the morning, before even getting out of bed.

“They also use SMS. That’s their primary communication channel for short sharp messages.

“Generations of people born before the advent of the mobile phone or smartphone tend to want to be able to read information in hard copy.”

What could be the consequence for employers of using a one-size-fits-all, blanket approach for IC?

“It just puts people off. We need to think – what do we want to say and how do we say it simply, clearly, unambiguously and honestly?

“How do we want that information received at the other end, and what do we want that audience to do with that information?”

What advice would you give organisations with diverse workforces, to help them communicate effectively with people of all ages?

“Take time to get to know your audiences well.

“It’s a question of understanding how audiences want to receive their information.

“So hosting focus groups with audiences at different ages and different job levels would help to determine how you put the information across and in what form.”

* We’ll be exploring this topic further in an upcoming article, where we share the thoughts of the younger generation and examine whether the very term ‘millennial’ could have a negative impact in the workplace.

** Picture courtesy of smonkey/Shutterstock.com.