The workplace is constantly evolving – from employee demographics to communication styles, few things remain static in today’s office. And with multiple generations of employees working in the same space, small business leaders have their hands full juggling distinct sets of values and behaviors.
Just as employers thought they were done bridging the gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials, an even younger generation has entered the workforce. Born between the mid-1990’s to the early 2000’s, Generation Z brings yet another set of communication and collaboration preferences to the workplace. As younger employees flood the workforce and older employees put off retirement, employers will need to reevaluate their communication strategies to accommodate every generation represented in their ranks.
The Challenges of Managing Disparate Communication Preferences
In a few years, as many as five generations could be working in the same space. For managers, the challenge becomes finding ways to engage employees born up to 50 years apart while keeping the number of communication tools in check. Each age group brings their own communication preferences to the table – left unchecked, this can create friction and decrease productivity especially in smaller workplaces.
The channels Gen Z prefers to communicate through are likely to be ineffective when presented to Baby Boomers who prefer in-person conversations. Formal meetings and a reliance on phone calls are unlikely to resonate with younger employees who grew up with smartphones and prefer casual, non-verbal interactions over chat platforms like Slack.
Small businesses have a plethora of communication and collaboration platforms – from emails to conference calls to virtual hangouts – to choose from. Finding the happy medium that each generation feels comfortable using requires a willingness to adapt to and understand changing technology trends.
A Unified Communication Strategy to Appease Every Generation
With employees of all ages in the workforce, businesses must embrace a digital platform that combines elements from each generation’s preferred method of communication. Aside from adopting a mobile-first mentality, companies should look for technology that blends multiple communication modes without abandoning familiar channels like email and in-person meetings.
3 Ways Managers Can Unify a Multi-generational Workforce
1. Ask employees for their feedback
Instead of guessing which communication channels each group prefers, managers should go directly to their employees and ask for feedback. Not only does this give executives insight into which tools will be most effective, it also creates engagement and lets teams know management respects their individual preferences.
2. Prioritize communication training
Offering in-depth and one-on-one training opportunities can educate every employee on the various ways to communicate in the office. Managers can use this time to show traditionalists and Baby Boomers how to navigate digital tools like video conferencing while also teaching younger generations how to conduct themselves in more formal, in-person meetings.
3. Look for holistic communication software
A unified communications (UC) platform combines previously siloed tools like audio, web and video conferencing, multimedia sharing, mobility, and instant messaging and presence into one easy-to-navigate solution. Consolidating the various communication tools your employees use eliminates the confusion that comes with downloading and maintaining individual platforms, helping small businesses save time and IT resources.
Open, flexible communication is key, especially when it comes to unifying a multigenerational workforce that may not always see eye-to-eye. With each generation’s preferences in mind, small businesses can employ strategies and tools that play to everyone’s strengths.