Carina Paine Schofield: Communicate to all generations

A key challenge facing employers and internal communications is to engage all generations in today’s workforce.

Carina Paine Schofield

Each generation comes to the workplace with different backgrounds and skills, plus different wants and needs. As different elements drive their lives and careers, each generation thinks differently about the world of work.

Our research shows a disconnect between generations on the approach to, and expectations of, work. Generation Y like constant change, job variety, opportunities to learn, job swaps, awaydays in different departments and sharing events.

Our research also shows a communication breakdown between Generation Y and their Generation X and Baby Boomer managers. These managers find the direct communication style of Generation Y, and their apparent over-confidence, a challenge.

Research has found the social communication methods of Generation Y different to their work communication methods, and they feel restricted by using work communication methods. Older generations are more comfortable with the usual work communication methods of phone, talk and email, whereas Generation Y are networked and learn by discussing and collaborating.

Generation Y get on well with their immediate managers, but find their communication style very formal. Generation Y have grown up in an era of equality of status. This different approach to communication can put Generation Y in conflict with their colleagues.

All generations need to clearly communicate their expectations and build shared understanding to help bridge gaps. Organisations need to look at their business processes relating to communications: do they fit with today’s world? It is crucial to pay attention to communication disciplines and approaches.

There is a need for multiple communication formats that appeal to all, but employers should be careful not to stereotype individuals, and ask employees what communication they would prefer.

Employers should also give Generation Y opportunities to voice ideas, to provide feedback and to demonstrate listening, thus offering them empowerment.

Carina Paine Schofield is a research fellow at Ashridge Business School

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