Communicating with the five generations in your workplace


Source: Steve Wood,

Your company could have five generations in your workplace. Maybe you have two or three.

No matter how many generations are represented in your workforce, you are most likely feeling confusion and frustration dealing with their differences.

Each generation has unique attributes, desires and motivations. Much has been written about the differences and the challenges companies have in hiring and managing each generation. In your company, most likely you are at the point where Gen Xers and millennials outnumber baby boomers. While boomers may be the majority in your leadership roles, the two generations following this large group have been in the workforce for years. Gen Xers and millennials are already managers/supervisors or soon will join the ranks of leadership. These groups are no longer just those entitled kids applying for entry level work.

What we’ve learned is that one size doesn’t fit all. Let’s start with each of the generations and their presence in today’s talent market as illustrated in columns 1 and 2 in the chart below.

Take stock of the mix of employees in your organization. As you identify your goals, as well as the work you’re doing to design your company culture, it is important to take into consideration your workforce. The table also identifies the best way to communicate with each generation so they will hear your message. Resurrect your knowledge, too, of how adults learn.

You can see that each generation is a little different – that’s not news. No doubt you are challenged today with the changes you’re seeing in recruiting, retaining and engaging employees. Your job as a leader is to share your goals and motivate your employees to be more productive, more strategic…and maybe even happier.

Source: Steve Wood,
Source: Steve Wood,

As you communicate to your organization or team – a change in policy, a new benefit, revised goals, an achievement to be celebrated – you want the information to be received and understood by everyone. Both the mode of communication and content is critical. The best advice I received about communication is “Tell them what you’re going to tell them tell them, and then tell them what you told them!” Once your content is clear and unambiguous, how should you distribute it? Distributing it the way you personally like to receive information may not be the best way to communicate. Sending one email to everyone will not be as effective as using a variety of distribution methods. Remember, one size doesn’t fit all. Consider trying a couple of these approaches:

  • Email, of course
  • Internal instant messaging
  • Short video announcement
  • Hard copy letter to each desk
  • Letter sent to home (if it affects the family)
  • Text message
  • Staff meeting
  • In-person meeting
  • Deploy internal champions to share and reinforce message
  • Illustrate your thoughts with a photo or quote

Think back to everything you know about adult learning…people have better success learning by: seeing, hearing and/or doing. It’s not about picking which ONE works – it’s about deploying the information in a way that can be received by each of these modalities.

If you find that your message is not being heard, step back and 1) Ensure that your content is clear and direct, 2) Consider your audience and 3) Distribute your message in the form and way people listen and learn. You will find the extra effort is worth it.

-Anne Grace Nimke is chief executive officer and co-founder of Milwaukee-based The Good Jobs Inc. (, a turnkey employment branding solution that provides transparency by quantifying culture to help companies attract, hire and retain the right talent.

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