Learn to Communicate

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I have a question for you. If you had an important matter to discuss with an employee or someone on your team, would you go find them for a face-to-face conversation, would you call them, would you email them, would you text them? There are so many communication methods, many people assume that the way they communicate is the way everyone communicates and that it’s the best way to communicate. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.

How you communicate contributes to your success

Now, more than ever, there is a need to learn to communicate effectively in a multi-generational workplace. The key is to be able to effectively address and take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each generation. Experts say managers must be careful not to follow blanket stereotypes and must also take care not to disadvantage older workers, even inadvertently, or risk retention problems and legal headaches.

After reading this article about What Make Millennials Tick,  (it was on our Facebook page, have you “liked” us yet?) we started thinking about how different generations effect the workplace. This is not to say it’s good or bad, just different. What does make millennials tick? What do they want in a workplace? A recent study looked at the youngest generation entering the workforce and asked those young professionals what they were really looking for. Their answer: How to most effectively teach their baby boomer bosses how they seek to be led. One aspect of leadership is communication. Learning the art of communication between multi-generations is key to success.

Different generations have different communication styles. This is a good, quick read about the subject. We especially liked this chart of communication preferences and communication obstacles for the various generations. What sticks out for me is how the face to face interaction, and even phone communications, are virtually non-existent as the chart moves down. This is critical for leaders and managers so that they implement the most effective form of communication for everyone on their team!

Communication
Preferences
Communication
Obstacles
Traditionalists
1925-1945     
*Face to face communication
*Formal typed or hand-written letters
*E-mail
*Fax
*Cell phones
*Text
*Social networking sites
Baby Boomers
1946-1964     
*Telephone
*Face to face
*Fax
*E-mail (and a lot of it!)
*Group/team meetings
(and a lot of them!)
*Cell phones for talking
(not necessarily for texting)
*Social networking sites
*Blogging
*Texting
*Technophobia
Gen X
1965-1978     
*Let me choose my communication & how often I do it
*E-mail
*Cell phone
*Text
*Blogging
*Instant message
*Online forums
*Face to face communication
*Formal letter writing
*Team discussions
(better one on one or alone)
*Difficulty with communicating up or down a generation
*Some barriers with social networks
Gen Y
1979-1997     
*Text
*Online social networks
*E-mail (but only for work or school)*Instant message
*Face to face conversations
*Telephone conversations
*Professional or even casual letter writing (what’s that?)

Here are some strategies to create a more efficient multi-generational workplace:

  1. Send your managers to workshops where they can learn to recognize generational differences and adapt to the changing workplace.
  2. Understand how different generations are wired to work and meet each employee where they are. It’s important that managers change rather than trying to change the staff.
  3. Facilitate mentoring between different aged employees to encourage more cross-generational interaction.
  4. Focus on the results employees produce rather than on how they get it done. This will give employees some flexibility on how they want to work and put everybody, regardless of where they spent most of their time working, on the same scale to measure success.
  5. Accommodate different learning styles. Baby Boomers may favor more traditional and static training methods like Power Point presentations and handbooks, while younger workers may gravitate towards more interactive, technology-based forms of learning.
  6. Keep employees engaged. Provide regular educational and training opportunities as well as career advice to keep all workers interested in the company.
  7. Be open. Millennials generally don’t work well under rigid management structure. Supervise, but let your young professionals improvise. They prefer open collaborations that allow employees to share information and for everybody to contribute to decision-making.
  8. Toss the routines. Experts say Millennials and Gen Xers dislike the formality of regular meetings, especially when there’s nothing to discuss. Limit meetings to when there’s a real need.
  9. Create recognition programs. Even simple gestures like a pat on the back or positive email congratulations can help boost productivity with Gen Xers. Boomers may seek status so may respond best to an office-wide memo that announces that they are meeting or exceeding their goals. Millennials may seek validation and approval.
  10. Keep learning. Once you get this new generation’s communication style figured out, the next will be right behind with an entirely different approach. A recent NPR story focused on how teen’s prefer to communicate. Have you even heard of these new formats? Probably not. But there is no time like now to learn something new.

What is the key to your communication success? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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