Multigenerational Communication and DEI
The channels of communication in the workplace seem to be ever-expanding. It can be tricky to know the best way to reach people or the most effective way to have a conversation. As part of many company DEI initiatives, it’s important to note generational differences in communication preferences. Today, there are four different generations represented in the workplace: Gen Z (born 1996-2015), Millennials (born 1981-1996), Generation X (born 1965-1980), and Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964). Note that the exact date ranges for the age categories may vary based on different sources.
In a world that is increasingly connected, communication in the workplace is becoming more complex and nuanced. With the proliferation of new technologies and various generations with different communication styles in the workplace, it can be hard to ensure everyone is on the same page. Misunderstandings, competing agendas, and differing priorities are challenges to be expected – yet there are ways to bridge these divides. By making efforts to expand DEI initiatives, to understand generational differences and to employ empathy as a key tool for connecting, businesses can unlock productive conversations that drive innovation and foster a culture of collaboration and better communication in the workplace.
Gen Z is known for being tech savvy, valuing speed and efficiency in communication. They prefer digital communication, such as text messages, video chat, and social media, over face-to-face conversations. Because they are so accustomed to digital forms of communication, Gen Zers may be more open to sharing information online than other generations, who may be more likely to guard personal details.
To best communicate with Gen Z, it’s important to speak their language. That means using the platforms they’re most comfortable with. SMS messaging, social media, and video chat are all great options for communicating in a way that’s familiar to them. It’s also important to be concise and get to the point quickly since this generation values efficiency when it comes to communication. And finally, make sure you take time to answer any questions or address any concerns that come up during the conversation. Though Gen Zers are tech-savvy, they still value respect in their conversations – so don’t forget to show courtesy when engaging in dialogue with them.
Millennials grew up during an era of big changes in technology. As such, they tend to value convenience when it comes to investing their time into communicating, preferring shorter forms of content like email or text messages instead of longer, more drawn-out conversations. They also prefer instant messaging services like WhatsApp and Facebook messenger over phone calls because they can easily multitask while talking with someone. When communicating with Millennials, it’s important to remember that convenience and speed are key. If you need to have a longer discussion, be sure to clearly explain the purpose at the beginning so they know what to expect and can better prepare themselves for the conversation. Finally, try to avoid any language or expressions that come off as too formal – Millennials tend to prefer more casual communication.
Generally speaking, Gen Xers value face-to-face interactions and require slightly more formality in their conversations. Consider including direct communication and not relying exclusively on digital technologies like social media or messaging platforms that require several back-and-forth exchanges. Gen Xers also value respect in their interactions and appreciate being given some space in dialogue to complete their thoughts and express their opinion.
The Baby Boomer Generation
The Baby Boomer generation has been around long enough to experience the transition into the world of digital communications like texting and emailing. However, when communicating, many prefer traditional methods such as phone calls, handwritten letters, and face-to-face meetings. Want to impress a Boomer? A handwritten thank you note would likely be appreciated. Most boomers tend to have a very structured approach when it comes to talking about topics with someone – one person talks for a short amount of time before the other person responds, and so forth until the conversation reaches its natural conclusion – which can be quite frustrating for younger generations who are used to engaging in back-and-forth dialogue more quickly.
Considering the I in DEI, it’s important to communicate inclusively when it comes to age, and there’s one tool that can break down barriers between people of any age: empathy. Whether you’re communicating with Millennials, Gen Xers, or any other generation, it’s important to be aware of the different perspectives and experiences each person may have to build meaningful relationships. By actively listening, understanding their needs and emotions, and showing genuine interest in what they say, you can foster an environment of mutual respect and trust – making it easier for everyone involved to find common ground. No matter whom you are speaking with, empathy is a key ingredient for building positive relationships, making lasting connections, and improving communication in the workplace.
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