These days, the issue on generational differences is not only confined to parents having difficulty communicating with their children. Fortune 500 executives in the US were surveyed and 80% responded that cross-generational communication is a dominant issue where they work. Generations at Work co-author Claire Raines said that the reason why the difference between generations is most pronounced today is simply due to the many radical changes that happened in the past 50 to 80 years.
Generational conflict could get in the way of developing trust between co-workers. This is why business owners are paying attention, especially on the way generations use and understand existing technology.
One language each
The differences in communication styles across generations has been extensively observed and characterized. Here’s how generations are distinguished from each other nowadays:
The matures are folks who are supposed to be retired, having been born from 1909 to 1945 but choose to work still and are as productive as they can be. Their means of communication is usually described as outdated and caught in the past. This only means that matures prefer face-to-face and one-on-one interactions or a connection with another person is not otherwise established.
The baby boomers were born post World War II and by far they still comprise the biggest percentage of the active workforce. This generation usually faces a number of stresses at work and at home. They are often described to be direct, driven, and competitive. The next step for them is retirement having worked in the same job all their lives. When it comes to use of the latest gadgets and technological innovations, they have the motivation to learn and actually engage in digital platforms.
Individuals that belong to Generation X were born to the baby boomers, sometime between the mid-60s to the mid-80s. They dislike limitations, prefer flexibility, distrust authority, enjoy the availability of a number of options, and are comfortable with technology, probably because they grew up seeing how current innovations developed. Some are comfortable with social media but others may not take to the habit as readily. Technology is not necessary for them, but they take advantage of the conveniences it brings into their lives.
The millennials or Generation Y or for some Generation C (for connected) are the very young tech savvy and entrepreneurial innovators of today. They were born at the time when personal computers were already commonplace, and they prefer to work in groups, functions best when given chunks and bits of information, and wants to have fun more than anything. Technology is central in their social lives.
Bridging four generations
Employers are always on the lookout for more effective strategies in bridging the existing communication gap especially now that the veterans keep pushing beyond retirement age and new graduates come in. There are a number of possible solutions, but which one works best would depend on the nature of the problem. Mentoring is an option implemented by certain companies. Others employ two-way teaching and sharing of knowledge. In this way, there is a mutual responsibility to arrive at a solution that works for all four generations sharing a common space. A sit down with good coffee can be the start of a productive exchange where the older generation imparts valuable experiences and insights and younger ones share knowledge and observations on the world as it is evolving right now.