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Do you ever feel like your employee communications are falling on deaf ears? You’re not alone.  Communicating to a multi-generational workforce can be difficult. Companies are now dealing with four major generations ranging from ages 22-65+. To think that each will hear, and more importantly understand, your messages the same way is just not realistic. But how do you overcome this conundrum?

The trick to remember is that it’s not always what you say, but how you’re saying it. You must understand your workforce and create a communication strategy around your people. Understanding where your employees ‘fit’ in terms of their generation is essential in the beginning to construct more meaningful communication campaigns and strategies. As such, here’s a look into the typical learning trends of each generation:

Veterans (born pre-1945)

  • Like communication through written and formal means
  • Learn through the “teach me” approach
  • Prefer face-to-face communication especially for career, post-career and benefit decisions

Communication campaign approach should be comprised of written materials, including memos, articles and posters.

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1960)

  • Like communication through personal interaction
  • Want to be “led to the information” to teach themselves
  • Thrive on conversations about more work-related items, specifically their personal contributions

Communication campaign approach should focus on creating communications that are more personal like one-to-one discussions, presentations and informative handouts.

Generation X (born 1961-1980)

  • Like communicaton that’s more direct
  • Want to be connected to the right people in order to understand and learn
  • Thrive on feedback for motivation

Communication campaign approach should reflect a true mixture of written, personal and electronic ways of communicating. One-to-one interactions will drive result, while phone interactions are good for work purposes.

Generation Y (born 1981-1995)

  • Like communication through electronic platforms
  • Want multiple ways to connect to information that’s critical for learning and growth
  • Open to 24/7 communication if it’s entertaining enough

Communication campaign should focus on hallway conversations and messages through electronic means like SMS, emails, interactive decision support tools, videos and social media.

Although every person is different, this should serve as a good guide to the various ways your organization can communicate to its employees. It’s a lot to think about, but thinking about it today will set you up for communication success down the road. Just remember to:

  • Use multiple communication channels. One size does not fit all. Using all forms of media is going to give you the most bang for your buck in terms of driving that engagement. It’s about appealing to everyone – not just one sub-group of people.
  • Create “ah ha” moments. Creating meaningful communications that employees can wrap their arms around can come in the form of persona creation. When talking about financial topics, create examples of various career and family circumstances showing how each uses available tools, resources and programs to fit their needs. Creating someone-like-me personas give clarity or that “ah ha” moment. The examples or someone-like-me personas have to be relevant to the person who’s nearing retirement as well as the newbie right out of college.
  • Reel ‘em in with live data. There are mountains of data at our fingertips. Use it. Live, actual data and stats on your workforce is going to get attention. Of course confidentiality is key, but throwing out stats about how much money was spent towards healthcare in the current year or how many company dollars were spent on the company’s 401K match program will peak interest. It’s relevant.

Understanding your workforce is imperative in having corporate messages heard. In a nutshell, ‘yes’ a multi-generational workforce hears messages differently, but the good news is that they’re still willing to listen.

 

Melissa Erenberg is Benefits Communications Supervisor on Assurance’s Employee Benefits Team. With more than 12 years of insurance industry experience, Melissa specializes in developing strategic benefit communications initiatives that promote employee engagement, benefit understanding and awareness and a consumer-minded approach to health care. She is a Certified Wellness Program Manager (CWPM) and holds her Associate in Insurance Services (AIS) designation as well as licenses in property and casualty and life and health insurance.

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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Brad Strothkamp

http://www.forrester.com/rb/analyst/brad_strothkamp