The ABC of Communicating with Gen X, Y, Z

Let’s face it — the more technology advances, the wider the gap becomes between the generations who use it. The lost art of letter writing has not only dented the profit margin of Australia Post, it’s flooded our email inbox. And that’s before we even get started on social media and texting.So if you’re a manager with a staff profile that spans the generations, what’s the best way to reach your people, whether it’s arranging a shift swap, or capturing ideas?

Generation Y

Generation Y are barely past 20 years old, but they’re au fait with the latest technology. They use apps, phones and tablets like ducks in water. Your Generation Y staff will often prefer to communicate on their own terms, and in their own time. Phone conversations can feel too direct — not to mention talking an issue through face-to-face.

Staff in this age bracket often find communicating by text more comfortable. If you’ve got a message that’s simple and factual, like ‘Please confirm your rostered shifts’, there’s a natural fit between the message and the mobile medium.

Generation X

Generation X are more comfortable with the traditional forms of communication, like email and meeting face-to-face. Don’t bother leaving answering machine messages, though; they’d prefer to just see the missed call and phone you back.

For both Generation X and Y, where text messaging feels like a good option, you can save your thumbs by automating message distribution. Workforce management software is a good fit for this situation. Instead of having to manually tap out fifteen text messages to your staff about a shift swap this Thursday, your software sends out a pre-approved message to all fifteen people in an instant.

Baby boomers

There’s a misconception out there that all baby boomers are technology-phobic. This is a myth . In fact, there’s a huge variation in technology adoption across this bracket. We see many baby boomers embracing social media, and spending more time online.

That said, they may have a more traditional mindset than younger cohorts, so ‘old-school’ channels, like phone and in-person might be good channels to start with.

Closing the generation gap

There will always be a time and place for meeting face-to-face, where ideas begin and grow: all-staff meetings to work through your strategic plan; team meetings to brainstorm a problem.

If you do bring Generation Y employees into all-staff forums, don’t limit the room for input to only / just right then and there. Give them a space to contribute later. Create a graffiti wall for them to write up thoughts after the discussion. Or let them know they can email ideas through afterwards.

And there will still be times where it’s just not possible to cater to personal communication preferences. When you’re managing a staff member’s performance, or discussing a promotion, there’s no substitute for being in the same room. That way, you can check you’re being understood, and use non-verbal communication that can get lost in a sea of SMS and emoticons.

Even the most perennial millennial will say that sometimes, sitting down over a coffee is where the best ideas are born.