Published: Jul 31, 2018

Written by Kronos Summer Intern, Megan Grenier. Megan is an intern with our mid-market marketing team and our Gen Z insider. She’s returning to Saint Anselm College this fall where she’s studying communications.

As a part of my summer internship with Kronos, I was asked to conduct a series of interviews with Kronos employees from different age groups to explore the implications of multiple generations in the workplace. I explored topics relevant throughout the employee life cycle and I’ll be sharing my findings in a three-part series I’m calling the 123's of XYZ .

employee experience, multi-generational workforce communicationAs a member of Generation Z just entering the workforce, it wasn’t far into my internship experience before I realized I had so many questions about communication – how frequently should I communicate with my boss, what other colleagues should I regularly communicate with, which way is the best way to communicate, how do I leverage the best technology tools, and how often is too often to ask questions? The list went on and on. So, after spending some time getting different perspectives from members of Gen X, Y and Z and even a couple of Baby Boomers here’s, what I found.

To text or not to text

When it comes to inter-generational communication you have to remember what’s acceptable for one generation might not be for another. Millennials and Gen Z are defined by their fast pace and hunger for immediacy, craving forms of communication like IM’ing and social media. Baby Boomers and Gen X are characterized by their confidence and independence, favoring traditional forms of communication like email, face to face meetings and phone calls. While each generation has a communication style they like the best, there is usually a style they like the least. My interviews confirmed, millennials and Gen Z abhor phone conversations, while Baby Boomers and Gen X tend to stay away from texting. 

For millennials texting is a quick and easy way to communicate, but for Gen X it may be crossing a line and considered too personal. For Baby Boomers it’s simple to dial up the phone to have a quick conversation, but for millennials it can be an uncomfortable and begrudging experience. It’s hard to think that the form of communication you’re accustomed to can be considered unacceptable by someone else. It’s important to remember that not everyone has the same communication preferences as you, so be open to new ways of communicating in the workplace.

When in doubt, talk it out

In order to figure out how to communicate cross-generationally it’s important to know what mode of communication is preferred. When it comes down to it every person is different. Uncharacteristically for my generation, I tend to stay away from IM’ing in the workplace. For me texting is too short and doesn’t provide enough information; I prefer an email thread that contains more direction.

To resolve this divide it’s necessary to have a conversation with the person you are communicating with about how they prefer to be contacted. Taking that first step can help clarify misunderstandings. A new employee may not know it’s acceptable to send their boss a quick IM, or a boss may not know why their millennial employee never answers their phone calls. By having this conversation colleagues can establish expectations and avoid miscommunications that may lead to performance implications or simply prevent collaboration.

We all want the same thing

One of the things that surprised me in all my interviews was that regardless of generation, we all really want the same thing—to have a meaningful work experience. The older generations are embracing new technology as a mode of communication, and with their willingness to adapt, we as the younger generation can meet them halfway. Although Gen Z and millennials prefer IM’ing and Baby Boomers and Gen X prefer phone conversations, the reality is we can all learn something from the other so being open minded is key. 

Miscommunication in the workplace can be resolved by understanding that we all have different preferences, learning what those preferences are and being willing to adapt to other's needs. Although as humans we can be fairly set in our ways, if we can take these first few steps, the employee experience of working in a multi-generational workforce will be a whole lot easier.