Opinion
June 19, 2012

Mixed media: The generational communications conundrum

Quote of the week

“The U.S. workplace is ‘undergoing a significant transition that presents unchartered territory and tremendous opportunity.’”

    — Engaging a Multi-Generational Workforce: Practical Advice for Government Managers
 
Editor’s Corner

It’s no secret that the government workforce is changing in both the U.S. and Canada. One reason is diversity; the other is the multi-generational workforce.

A U.S. report indicates that government managers face three specific issues related to leading the latter. First, there are four different generations with four different sets of expectations. Second, most workers are in fact unhappy in their jobs to begin with. And third, the advent of new technologies is being accepted unevenly in the office workplace.

The authors divide the generations into four categories that will be familiar to most of us: Traditionalists (66+), Boomers (47-65), Gen Xers (31-46) and Millennials (21-30).

They write that, “what is drastically different today is the rapid influx of technology–savvy employees and the resultant cultural, social, and attitudinal changes they bring.”

They give multiple examples of how the generations differ, but one interesting area relates to communications.

Using broad generalizations, they argue that (for example) Traditionalists like the written word, such as memos, and individual interaction, while Boomers prefer face-to-face dialogue, the telephone and “structured networking.”

They argue that Gen-Xers prefer voicemail and email, while Millennials prefer the digital media.

The generalization weakness aside (I would have argued that most Boomers are emailers, just to be picky), the authors put forth a real challenge for managers: if communication is such an important quality of leadership, how do you make it work across this generational divide?

The answer they propose is to accept diversity as a strength and to use communication to build bridges rather than to increase divides.

The report provides other tips around managing different generational expectations around work-life balance, career development, rewards and recognition, and engagement.

You can find the report below.

868 Engaging a Multi-Generational Workforce

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