Five tips to ensure your messages reach the right audience in a multigenerational workforce.
I am bombarded with messaging every minute of the day. My devices can’t discern personal interests from professional news from noise. What do I open first? Most likely, the same things as you: content I can tell is relevant to me.
In today’s increasingly multigenerational workforce, with Gen Z (ages 18-23) working alongside Baby Boomers (ages 56-75) and everyone in between, managing multigenerational teams brings new challenges. Integral’s Index research shows huge differences across generations regarding the kinds of topics that interest them. All of this creates opportunities for communicators to develop messaging targeted to each of them.
Full disclosure: My unrequited crush on Winona Ryder and dog-eared Douglas Coupland novels, mean I identify as Gen X.
Working with clients and in leading employee communications at Bloomberg and IBM, I found too many communicators get stuck trying to craft content that will somehow please everyone. Integral’s Index research shows Gen Z employees are the least likely to have positive perceptions of their organization’s values. Worth noting, Gen Z are least likely to feel there is transparent communication about their career prospects. Interestingly, a whopping 86% of Baby Boomers who feel loyal to their employer, only 55% of Gen Z say the same. If Gen Z, Gen X and Baby Boomers rated “employees’ good health and well-being” as their top societal issue. Millennials ranked LGBTQ rights first.
If, like me, you are obsessed with creating compelling communications that break through the clutter to reach and inspire others then there are a few steps you can take to improve your odds. With all that in mind, here are my five tips to consider when trying to reach these different generations:
1. Stop making your content “pale, male, and stale”
Writing to one demographic diminishes the organization’s potential for diversity and the opportunity to foster an inclusive environment with all its benefits.
Engage your multigenerational workforce by making sure the content represents a range of employee demographics, including diverse personalities and behaviors. While your HR team can tell you about your employee demographics, consider research reports like the Integral Index as sources for insights into what topics are important to them. This approach means taking seriously ideas, opinions, and desires from all employee levels. Quotes, photos, and event invitations should represent your employee population.
2. Not all Millennials are “future leaders”
Consider all employees as current leaders vs. singling out Millennials. In a multigenerational workforce, look instead for folks at earlier or later stages in their careers who want to step up. Overly-broad studies about one generation’s wishes and aspirations will limit how you reach your employees as a diverse, uniquely motivated group of individuals. Gen Z wants to know about how your company is leading on LGBTQ matters; they may be ambassadors on your social feeds. Even those insights are worth pressure testing within your organization’s unique population.
3. Don’t assume Gen Z’ers want to share your press release on Instagram
Gen Z’ers are too often labeled “social media wizards.” However, being active on personal social channels does not mean they are eager to post an Instagram story about the company’s most recent product release! Our research showed that only 36% of Gen Z employees posted anything about their employer in a two-month time period.
Gen Z’ers are building their own personal and professional brands; therefore, developing content relevant to them may earn their advocacy. What can you produce for them to share that makes them look good? If your Gen Z’ers are least likely to believe companies are transparent about career opportunities, what can you do to help showcase them as professionals? How might building your eminence programs empower and inspire them to share your content with their networks?
4. Make sure to Include Gen X’ers
Oops, we were so focused on Gen Z, Millennials, and Baby Boomers we forgot about Gen X. Sound familiar?
Considering the focus on the Baby Boomer brain drain and Millennials emerging as company leaders, Gen X’ers often get lost in the mix. On the one hand, sure, Gen X counts fewer people among its ranks. On the other hand, Gen X is expert practitioners, highly skilled tradespeople, and executives at peak professional prowess. (And yours truly!) As a result, highlight their accomplishments too — and maybe even throw in a reference to Richard Linklater or mixtapes now and again.
5. Believe it: Baby Boomers understand technology
Use technologies and language to create an inclusive environment. There’s no practical need to set up technology training sessions unique to Baby Boomers. Most Baby Boomers have smartphones and tablets and the overwhelming majority, say they wish more businesses had digital options available.
The moral of the story? Find the uniqueness
Stop viewing your employee population as one group with the same interests, motivations, and values. Each employee brings their own special magic to an organization, so they deserve better than a one-size-fits-all approach. Poor communications practices can sap the energy from even the most motivated multigenerational team. Let me sum it up: find the uniqueness of the individuals that make up your employees to inspire and activate your employees.