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Communication in the Multi-Generational Workforce

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October 10, 2019 | Jennifer Namazi

Communication in the Multi-Generational Workforce

Communication among generations is probably one of the more fascinating challenges presented by living in the time of what some call the fourth industrial revolution - which can be described as a time in which there are “exponential changes to the way we live, work and relate to one another due to the adoption of cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things and the Internet of Systems.” (“The 4th Industrial Revolution is Here – Are You Ready?” – Bernard Marr, Forbes) What makes the communication gaps among generations so significant? And, how do we implement tools that bridge them?

At our NASPP Conference in New Orleans last month, the session “Generation Gap: Communicating with Your Changing Workforce (featuring speakers Michelle Tomasetti of CompIntelligence, Brian McDonald of Morgan Stanley, Dom Graham of Uber, and John Hammond of Aon Equity Services) reminded me about just how real the communication gap is among generations, and how important it is to factor each generation’s unique communication needs into information delivery. I even learned some new formats for delivering employee communications, which I’ll share in a moment.
Defining Generational Preferences
Generations have always had differences in how they interact with society. However, our current time presents unique challenges in that our methods and modes of communications have evolved and changed exponentially, like never experienced before. This leads us to a new communication territory within the workplace. To talk about strategies, we first need to understand the distinct and sometimes overlooked preferences of each generation.
  • Baby Boomers strongly prefer communication that is “a balance between email, voicemail, face-to-face communications and meetings.” (“The Business Leader’s Guide to Communication Across Generations” – David Galowich, There is little knowledge or interest in using “chat” methodologies to interact.
  • Generation X’s population is not that much different than baby boomers in that in person, email and phone are the primary methods they use to communicate. One differentiator is that this group prefers meetings on an as-needed basis only, and tends to favor email as the primary form of communication.
  • Millenials are a generation also can interact in person and by email, but the difference is that they grew up with the Internet and are usually connected to technology. They are the first users of messaging and chat vehicles. While email and face to face communications do work for this generation, they may also prefer more tech saavy modes of delivery, like text, along with faster access to information.
  • Generation Z (those born in 1998 or after) is the first real generation of “native” technology consumers. I learned in the Generation Gap presentation that people in this generation have literally been interacting with technology since birth. If you’re doing the math like I did, that makes the oldest Gen Z’ers about 21 years old – which means they will be (or maybe already are) joining our workforce population imminently.  Those in Generation Z prefer “chat” modes of communication over all others.
New Tools for Communication Success
With differences in communication preferences, it’s imperative that workforce communication strategies include methods that resonate with all generations. We can’t rely on email or an abundance of meetings alone to deliver our message. What we can do is respect the varied needs of our workforce, and ensure everyone has access to stock plan information in a way that works for them.  Sometimes that means stepping outside of our go-to formats and exploring new options for communication.

In the Generation Gap presentation described above, I was intrigued to learn that Uber used podcasts as one (of several) forms of communication around their IPO. Here’s some info about podcasts:
  • Podcasts are basically a form of on-demand audio that can be easily accessed from a mobile device or computer.
  • Fun fact: The NASPP has a podcast that covers a range of stock compensation topics.
  • Anyone can record a podcast using tools that are either free, or already in use by many companies – which means a portable, low cost and potentially high value information channel.
  • Podcasts can be edited using free software (check with your IT group before downloading any software) like Audacity.
  • You’ll need to figure out how to “host” your podcast – whether internally on a microsite (check with your IT about this), or via a third party provider.
I also found it interesting that in a live poll of audience attendees at the presentation, only 1% of respondents said they use podcasts for employee communications (the dominant form of communication was email – at 45%). I see a big opportunity here for stock plan administrators. Think of the possibilities for podcast episodes around key plan events, like RSU releases and ESPP purchases.

Here are some other options to explore in preparing a multi format communications rollout:
  • Internal chat tools – like Slack
  • Quick reference guides (ditch the multi-page FAQ if possible)
  • Microsite that serves as a content hub – with information available in multiple formats
The multi-generational workforce is already here, and will only get more diverse in communication preferences as Gen Z migrates into the workplace. It’s time to consider (and reconsider) expanding information delivery options in order to ensure your message resonates across the workplace.



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