Interpersonal communication means being able to exchange information, ideas and feelings. In a workplace, interpersonal communication is critical, since a smooth flow of information, ideas and feelings is one of the keys of your business’ effectiveness.
One of the challenges of interpersonal communication in a workplace is the generational gaps that may certainly exist between members of a same team, and between managers and employees.
In order to ensure an effective communication within your teams, you will have to build bridges between those gaps. And that starts by having a deep understanding of each one’s perspective.
Why should you pay attention to generation gaps?
There is a wrong general impression that following generations should be the perfect mirror of the principles and values that their elder cared to transmit.
Consequently, facing the fact that younger colleagues are not on the same page regarding work’s values, triggers an automatic reflex of blaming their thinking by matching them with known-negative flows (how many times have you heard – or think – that gen Y is “selfish and lazy”?).
In fact, new generations are far from being exclusively a reflection of the values of their eldest. They are primarily a product of evolution designed by the socio-economic model they grew up to. That’s how, by the time they are entering the labor market, they have very specific work’s values and perceptions of their own that have to be taking into account.
Once your team has a better understanding of each other’s perceptions and values, they will be able to stop cutting corners and devaluating the other, and start joining forces and create value together.
What are Gen X, Y, and Z?
Gen X is the term used in reference to people borned between 1960 and 1980.
They received from their parents – the baby-boomers generation – values such as ambition, individualism, and a strong ability to work hard. However, things have been more difficult for the Gen X than it was for the baby-boomers since, after a period of upheaval, the labor market was very tight, and a stable employment was a great challenge, and a goal to reach.
Gen Y, also called “the millennials”, is the generation of people borned between the 80’s and 1994. Millennials arrived in a competitive, extremely advanced world. They had to have an additional value on the market, so they studied more than their parents did and very quickly understood the functioning of society. This is when they start asking “WHY?”.
Millennials were basked in inspirational movies; TV shows and pop music proclaiming that life is short, and that they need to make the most of it. They heard it well, and stability of their careers was no longer more important that self-accomplishment. On top of that, the digital world opened itself to their life at a very early stage, offering platforms to share views, to break open work taboos, and to reinforce their visions with their peers. To summarize, Gen Y is very ambitious, defines its main goal as being able to combine a successful career with personal development, and therefore, is not satisfied with the inconsistencies they identify in the labor world that surrounds them.
And now comes Gen Z!
Borned between 1995 and 2010, the Gen Z – also called the centennials – is starting to make its apparition in the labor market. This generation grew up with tablets and smartphones, and has the digital marked as part of their DNA. Centennials are able to multi-tasks, are independent and demanding. If you cannot catch their interest, they will switch matter in the blink of eye. But also, Gen Z grew up in the middle of 2008 economical crisis and therefore tends to give more importance in looking for stability than Gen Y does.
Build Communication Bridges
While attracting and retaining millennials is still a challenge for human resources professionals, the oldest of Gen Z are beginning to enter the workforce in Europe and in the U.S. and should do so in Israel in the 5 upcoming years. Most millennials are already far from being juniors, and the melting pot XYZ is about to start. Let’s be prepared.
Make teaching your priority
Gens Y and Z do not quietly execute tasks. They need to understand why they are doing it, to gain an intellectual satisfaction out of it, and to be able to criticize ways things are done if they think there is room for improvement. Indeed, millennials’ main added values are autonomy, learning skills and desire to contribute to the company’s mission. They are not afraid of taking risks, which led to a high wave of entrepreneurship over the last decade but also means, an ability to think outside the box to improve performance. As such, they were models for Gen Z. Both generations are ready to give their best, provided that the missions they are dedicating themselves for offer a constant access to learning and perspective. It is not enough to provide Gen Y and Gen Z with today’s outcomes: they need to be able to look with you in a certain direction, to believe in it so that they can decide to remain by your side along the way.
See the big picture
Generations Y and Z are looking for happiness. While this word still sounds cheesy to Gen X, it has indeed become a priority for the new generations. And this is a good thing. Millennials and centennials value family and self-development. While they are seeking for success in their professional lives, they are not willing to sacrifice what make their life’s elementary qualities. Gen X employers should no longer be afraid of that fact, and understand the full picture: search for happiness is not meant to go against business effectiveness, on the contrary. Know how to harness the amazing autonomy superpower of your workforce to balance their desire of ‘free time’ with your outcomes’ expectations. Doing so will give you the key of your team’s trust, and in exchange, they will take it very seriously not to let you down.
Adapt your tools
There is no escape to it. Gen Z breathes digital. They live in a dimension where Facebook is overrated and 14 seconds’ videos seem too long. Your company’s leadership has to adapt its language and communication features. Providing your employees with training, empowerment, and positive role modeling is a must to enable global communication in an intergenerational environment. Take it to the next level and promote reciprocal training. Create programs, to promote mentoring and networking within the company itself. Having an intergenerational vision in your business is a great asset that you should then use and valorize in order to recruit the best elements that Gen Z has to offer.
Empowering new generations by giving credit to their expectations will enable you to pass along skills. Matching boomers’ and Gen X’s expertise with Gen Y’s and Z’s ways of proceeding will not only break generational barriers, but optimize your workforce global capacity.