Top tips for communicating to a multi-generational workforce

Multi generational communications

Need to know:

  • Targeted messages can help ensure communications are relevant, but they should not exclude any individuals or information.
  • Organisations should take into account employee feedback and campaign data to determine whether an approach is effective for its particular workforce.
  • Utilising a variety of communication channels enables employees to consume information in their preferred medium.

As the age range within the workforce lengthens and shifting demographics continue to generate increasingly nuanced employee requirements, many employers are working to ensure that their benefits package meets the varied needs and expectations of staff across multiple generations. Developing a communications strategy that engages all members of the workforce can help employees to feel the full value of the benefits available to them, no matter what their age.

  1. Take a tailored-yet-inclusive approach

By fully considering the demographic of a particular workforce and then taking a segmented approach, employers can tailor communications so that employees receive the information that is most likely to be relevant to them. Matthew Gregson, consulting director at Thomsons Online Benefits, says: “The content has to match where [employees] are at in their life journey and where they are at in their work journey.”

However, assumptions about an individual’s preferences based on which generation they belong to should not preclude access to information. “[Employers] can target what they think is most relevant but then provide the same level of detail underneath that so that they’re not second guessing or excluding someone from potential insight or support,” adds Gregson.

Similarly, business-wide benefits communications should be inclusive of all employees. Chloé Port, head of employee communication, corporate solutions at Xerox HR Services, says: “If communicating to everyone in one go then [organisations should] make sure to support the values of all the generations rather than just focusing on one. Often by pointing out differences [they] can bring them into the open and provide an opportunity for different generations to learn from one another.”

2. Offer choice through multiple channels

Instagram campaigns can prove popular among younger workforces, while printed communications sent to employees’ homes at the weekend, thereby giving them time to discuss their choices with their family, can help to engage the baby-boomer generation, explains Port. “Everyone is different though, so there needs to be a variety of communications so that people can pick and choose,” she adds.

A multi-channel, multi-media approach can cater for the range of ways in which different groups of employees opt to consume information, as well as ensuring the medium suits the message.

Digital channels such as text messages, email and even augmented reality can be particularly effective for delivering regular benefits updates, says Gregson. Social media is, by its nature, designed for providing such short, sharp updates to users. Although just 5% of employers use social media in benefits communication, according to Thomsons Online Benefits’ 2015 Global employee benefits watch, published in October 2015, it has the potential to be a valuable benefits communication tool where appropriate.

As more digital natives enter the workforce, the role of social media will likely increase. Nick Throp, director at Like Minds, says: “Generation Z are brilliant at assessing information really quickly. In terms of communication, that means [employers] literally just have seconds to create a connection.”

Harnessing social media and tools such as video, can be used to create an impact in a concise, often visual, manner.

3. Be authentic

Branding considerations in communication campaigns, such as tone of voice and design, should align with an organisation’s goal, says Gregson. “The brand needs to be representative of who the [employer] is as a business as opposed to trying to appeal to a hugely diverse workforce,” he explains.

Straying far from an organisation’s values may risk alienating rather than engaging certain segments of the employee population. “Avoid trying to be achingly cool for the younger workforce, that is inauthentic,” adds Throp. “Employees generally, and particularly the younger age group, are good at spotting inconsistencies.”

4. Encourage feedback and monitor impact

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Listening to employees’ feedback is a key part of developing an effective communications strategy. “It’s about establishing a continual dialogue between [the employer] and employees, keeping the conversation going and finding out what they want,” says Port.

Employers can also draw on data, particularly from digital channels, to gain insights and thus inform their strategy going forward. “Monitoring what type of communication works and how [organisations] need to evolve it is essential, because otherwise [employers] might be doing things that they are told are great for others but they will have no way of measuring whether or not they are great for [them],” adds Gregson.