As technology advances, verbal communications between us diminishes. We aren't talking as much as we used to, we aren't expressing ourselves as much as we used to and we are becoming isolated from each other despite that fact that we are connected to more people than ever before - albeit electronically.
Among the many reasons why this is occurring, apart from the aforementioned increased use of technology, is that we sometimes don't understand the various communication styles of the five generations.
Each generation thinks slightly differently, behaves differently, has different values, and importantly communicates differently. And we sometimes don't take the time to find out how to communicate to a different generation.
Here is a (very) short explanation as to why we communicate differently. Why am I explaining this to you, because we should always establish why to get a better understanding of a situation which allows us to connect and problem solve much easier.
Gen-X – Born 1964 to 1980
These are the powerhouse of businesses in todays’ world. They are hard workers, like to be given lots to do, and want to be left alone to get on with it. Wind them up, give them the tools, and watch them go.
This group have got it right with their work/life balance. They are attuned to what is required both at home and at work. Gen-X’s will talk about their personal life as opposed to BB’s who won’t do so. They read emotions better than most (so don’t go lying to them) and this is the beginning of a generation that has true environmental awareness.
They want a boss that they respect because of their work rather than their position. They also prefer cooperative leadership style and will listen to what others have to say.
Do they get angry, yes. And they will be honest and direct about it. Preferring emails rather than face-to-face discussions, you can engage with this generation by giving them lots of feedback on their work.
This is the first generation where you have to start reducing the length of your sentences when speaking with them. Traditionalists and Baby Boomers are well versed in long conversations so maintain 25 to 40 words per sentence, with the advent of text messaging there was no longer the desire for drawn out interactions so keep your sentences to under 30 words.
Millennials (Gen-Y’s) – Born 1980 to 1995.
I do not like the term Gen-Y, this group got a bad rap when entering the workforce because they constantly asked “Why”. Just like BB’s, their thirst for knowledge is unquenchable only now they have access to unlimited information.
A new term was coined for this generation, ‘helicopter parenting’. Their parents provided this generation with all that they ever wanted and more. Only the best would do for our children therefore we not only gave them everything but the very best that we could afford. Hence this generation became heavy consumerists.
We drove them to school, not because it was dangerous to walk to school but because we didn’t want our children to have to walk like we had to. If something happened at school that we didn’t like, we were at the school in front of the principal telling the school that they were wrong.
It is not uncommon in the workplace for this same behaviour to occur. When the employee is allowed to have a support person with them in a meeting it will often be one of the parents who fronts up. Most often the employee will phone one of their parents for advice if they are stuck.
Their increased use of technology resulted in two outcomes that BB’s find disturbing – reduced attention span and shorter conversations.
It is not actually a reduced attention span; it is a busy brain. Gen-Y’s find it challenging to focus on just one thing, there’s lots of ‘stuff’ going on inside of their head. You have to keep them focussed by providing varied activities and plenty of interaction.
Because this generation do most of their communicating via mobile phone, they find it difficult to hold a lengthy conversation with anyone other than with their friends. Keep your sentences to no more than 20 words per sentence.
The Pluralist – Born 1995 to 2015.
Hang on to your hats, there is a new wave of fast-paced generation hitting the workplace. With an attention span shorter than a pet dog, this group are so fast in their thinking that us BB’s have immense difficulty in communicating with them unless we maintain their interest.
Pluralists do not like conflict so don’t expect an argument from them. Most don’t even show emotion in their face therefore are hard to read which gives the perception that they don’t care. On the contrary, they do care. They care about the world and the environment, everything else is a distraction.
Everything is instant – Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter; fast and to the point. There is so much going on in their heads that when we talk to them it will seem that they aren’t listening to us. Often they aren’t, there’s just too many other things to focus on.
If you send this generation an email, it is likely that they won’t read beyond the subject line unless it is an interesting subject. They want change, embrace change, need change. If nothing changes, they get bored.
Expect this generation to stay no longer than three years in one place, they will either move to another part of the organisation or find a new job. They like big brands, big companies, everything big. Except your sentences.
When engaging in communication with this generation, keep your sentences to no more than 8 to 10 words. After that their brain will be looking for other stimulation.