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.
• 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.
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?
“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.