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    8 Tips to Communicate With 4 Different Generations in the Workplace

    Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

    The workplace environment is one that is continuously evolving and changing, with both challenges and triumphs. Today's workforce is currently tackling challenges never before experienced--4 generations, all working under the same roof. Have a 5 minute conversation with an individual from each generation and you will get the idea that their cultures are wildly different. The Veterans and Baby Boomers endured the Vietnam War and remember where they were the day Kennedy was shot. While Gen X and Millennials have felt the powerful impact of 9/11.

    These experiences, both personally and nationally, shape who we are as individuals. Additionally, they also affect the workplace and how our companies handle themselves.

    What Types of Communication Could Be Used For Different Generations

    • Get everyone on the same page, regarding the formality to the workplace
    • Use multiple communication avenues
    • Personalize your approach
    • Understand value differences
    • Be aware of motivating factors
    • Ask, don’t assume
    • Be willing to teach and be taught
    • Acknowledge the differences
     As they say: "Times they are a-changing". Gone are the days where women and youth weren't given jobs at the top. Now, whoever has earned the spot and/or has the most education and experience, rises to the top. Now, you may even find a female Gen Xer as department head, while their department is peppered with individuals from each generation. 

    Generational differences in communication solutions include using multiple communication avenues.As you can imagine, this can cause some serious friction at times. Or, you can turn it around to your advantage. What a great opportunity we have in front of us--never before have we had so many differing viewpoints contributing to the same cause. Think of all the creative ideas they could dream up, given the right setting and a little support! We have come up with a few ideas to help you not only keep peace in the workplace, but utilize these generational differences to your advantage.

    Get everyone on the same page, regarding the formality to the workplace--When the Veterans and Baby Boomers were entering the workforce, suits and ties were worn everyday and computers didn't exist, much less emails. Times have changed a lot since then. Not only do we have computers, but we have smart phones that allow us to communicate from virtually anywhere. Many companies have adopted business casual as their attire. The older generations view these changes as informal and, many times, disrespectful, while this is all the younger generations have ever known. As their leader, it is important for you to set the tone and clearly outline the formality of your workers. If everyone knows what is expected of them, there is less room for disagreement and finger-pointing, and more room for collaboration and productivity.

    Use multiple communication avenues--Veterans grew up during the time of rotary phones, while Millennials had their own cell phone by the time they entered their teenage years. Baby Boomers prefer face-to-face conversation, while Generation Xers prefer to speak via phone, email or text. While you may be hard-pressed to find a rotary phone nowadays, you can (and should) provide multiple communication options for your employees. Not only is this to ensure they are comfortable--consider who is on the other end of that conversation. Their comfort zones likely span a large number of options as well.

    You may want to consider using Social Media to communicate with your millennial workers.  If so, here are 4 Simple Steps to Create a Social Media Policy for Your Workforce. 

    Personalize your approach--One of your primary duties as the facilities manager, is to ensure your employees have what they need, when they need it. A happy employee = a productive employee. One of the best ways to ensure this gets done is to get to know your team as individuals. Never make assumptions based on their age, sex or position. Make an effort to discover what works best for each and adjust your efforts accordingly. Remember, just because you are in charge does not mean your way is always the right way--you may even learn something you hadn't considered before.

    Understand value differences--Work ethic varies tremendously from generation to generation. Veterans view work as an obligation while Baby Boomers view it as an adventure. Gen Xers have grown up viewing their jobs as challenges, while Millennials view it as a means to an end--you have to work to be able to buy the things you want. Understanding these differences and WHY they have come to the conclusion they have about their profession will equip you with the tools you need in approaching each. Since we are all products of our environment, none are incorrect, just simply very different.

    Be aware of motivating factors--While members of the older generations are used to coming in and getting the job done, no matter what, the youth entering the workforce is motivated by praise and guidance. Again, neither generation is right or wrong. A healthy balance between each viewpoint is the best answer. Always remember the power of praise, as it is a key motivator no matter the person.

    Ask, don’t assume–-Miscommunication causes dissension in the ranks. And you know what they say about assuming. So encourage your team to communicate amongst each other. Rather than assuming the worst about their co-workers, they should converse and ask questions. They are, after all, each working towards the same goals. Lead your team by example, breaking down the typical stereotypes along the way.

    Be willing to teach and be taught--Regardless of how much you have experienced or how much schooling you have, there is always more we can learn. Today's generation can take some great lessons from the older generations. Lessons to be applied to every aspect of their lives. Conversely, today's youth can teach the Veterans and Baby Boomers much about technology. Always encourage learning and growth within your team, as everything we learn shapes us into the type of individuals we are/become.

    Acknowledge the differences–-While it may be tempting to bury your head in the sand regarding the differences within your workforce, this is never a good idea. Ignoring these difference only stands to cause resentment and dissension. Instead, acknowledge and embrace the differences. Use them as tools and encourage your team to use these variances as a chance to learn and grown. You did, after all, hire each for their strengths and what they have to offer.

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    There have been massive changes in our world since the Veteran generation was born in the 1920s. These changes have led to marked differences from generation to generation. Whether you are conversing with a family member, customer or employee, awareness and understanding about these differences will set you up for success. A great leader strives to understand who their workforce is made up of, with a willingness to learn along the way. Support collaboration and communication amongst your peers and productivity and efficiency will shine.

    Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

    ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Tiffany Bloodworth Rivers

    Tiffany covers leadership and marketing topics and enjoys learning about how technology shapes our industry. Before iOFFICE, she worked in local news but don't hold that against her.

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