How to Tailor a Culture Message Across Different Generations

Many of today’s organizations are comprised of employees from not just one or two generations, but three or four. Plus, thanks to diversity and inclusion many employees can come from different cultural backgrounds. Today’s organizations may include people of different ages, races, genders, and religions. These employees might communicate differently and have different life experiences and histories.  That’s a great thing because it gives organizations fresh outlooks and a multitude of perspectives and insights. But it can be challenging too when it comes to sharing, understanding and communicating in the workplace. 

Face the differences and work with them

The most powerful and effective work cultures don’t let these differences slip under the radar. They look these differences in the eye and find ways to include and honour each employee’s challenges, capabilities and strengths. 

As noted in an article written by Becca Wilson on Forbes.com, called, Mastering Multigenerational Communication In The Workplace, “By 2026, millennials will make up the majority of the workforce, yet one-quarter of the workforce will still be represented by Gen Xers plus boomers, who are projected at 13 million in 2024. These statistics have spurred forward-thinking leaders to research how generations are alike and different, with the goal of maintaining peace and high productivity in their companies.”

Make sure your communication style reaches everyone

Some studies have shown that different generations have different preferences for how workplace information is communicated. For example, some say that Generation Z prefers personal interaction and baby boomers prefer a quieter approach. 

But we’re all individuals, so the best way to make sure that cultural messages are well received is to ask!  Conduct random checks with various employees in different age ranges. Ask them how they prefer to receive their communications and why. Then deliver on that so that all employees, from different generations, are seen and respected.  

Study your workforce

As stated in an article called, Managing People from 5 Generations by Rebecca Knight on the Harvard Business Review web site, “…determine what they want out of their jobs as these things are different generation to generation.”

Managers can support all generations by keeping an eye out for generational tension that shows up as a lack of respect for someone who is from a different generation. It’s their job to help employees to see that they all have skills and different things they bring to the table. 

Organizations can also define their culture by honouring the different stages of life that happen from generation to generation.  For example, younger people typically don’t have many outside obligations; work-wise, they’re motivated by new experiences and opportunities. Employees in their 30’s and 40’s often have children and mortgages so they may need flexibility, good salaries and advancement. Meanwhile, workers at the end of their careers may seek training, interesting work and work-life balance.

The rewards of investing in all generations

Any way you slice it, as Dr. Elissa Perry, Professor of Psychology and Education at Columbia University, explains in her interesting Big Think video called, Inside Employee’s Minds The Multi-Generational Workplace, when employers show their respect for “all” generations in their workplace, and all employees witness that appreciation for everyone no matter what their age, organizations have a lot to gain.  

“There’s something called social exchange theory. What that means as an employee is, that I’m likely to invest more in my employer, if I think my employer invests a lot in me.  So the more I see my employer doing good things for more people, the more I’ll be motivated to reciprocate and give back,” says Dr. Perry.

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