It has long been accepted that happy employees equal a successful organisation. Coupled with this is the knowledge that informed employees are happy ones.
But what is possibly news to many is that every generation has a different approach to the way they like to engage, their outlook on life, the ways and means that they communicate and how they like to be rewarded.
This has a very real effect on the way that employers should be communicating with their staff and, if not acknowledged, could result in dismal failure of any internal communications campaigns.
“Each generation is different,” explains sisters, Nadia and Carmen Lerm of FusionDesign, an integrated marketing and design agency that specialises in corporate communication.
“Although we are all raised differently, exposed to different external influences, with different values and norms – we are all shaped by the generation in which we are born and raised and this affects the way we look at the world around us, our communication style, responses and expectations.”
The different generations and how they approach communication
There are a number of different generations: Baby Boomers, Generation X (aka the Rebels), Generation Y and the Millennials.
According to Nadia, when it comes to internal communications businesses cannot use the same communication style that they would use for the Baby Boomers and apply it to the younger generations, as the message they are trying to convey will be lost on the younger ones and vice versa.
“Often we find that in large corporations the Baby Boomers generation are the leaders and managers and may be reluctant to adopt online and digital media channels to communicate with their employees, which in most cases are made up by a big portion of Millennials, who want to be communicated with in a different way and are comfortable with digital media.
“As an example, a manager from the Baby Boomers generation may prefer to hand write a memo that they place on an employees desk – whereas a Millennial employee would prefer an e-mail to go to their inbox that they can retrieve via their laptops or cell phones.
“Then we come to employees from within Generation X. Also often the leaders and managers in companies – they have a strong sense of individualism and are also very diverse in aspects of society such as race, class, religion, ethnicity, and sexual orientation. Generation X, although not born in the digital age, are eager adopters of online media.”
According to Nadia, Generation Y makes up the biggest portion of the workforce in South Africa.
“They are achievement-orientated employees and super multi-taskers who like to work in teams and embrace challenges together.
“Digital media, e-mail and SMS are ideal ways to communicate with this generation, who are seen as ‘Digital Natives’ and thrive on communication via social sharing. Interestingly, Google is losing their market share to Facebook due to searches being done on Facebook instead of Google by the younger Generation Y members.”
How to solve potential generational communication breakdown
So given this brief summary, users can see some of the differences that define these generations. Carmen Lerm explains that when conceptualising and embarking on an internal communications campaign it is essential to understand the demographics of an organisations employees before going ahead.
“It is vital to conduct a generations analysis to understand the age of the staff and how best to communicate with them.
"One way to solve the problem of communicating a common message to a range of employees from different generations is to adopt an integrated internal communications campaign which contains the traditional communication mediums – such as posters – and combine this with digital e-mail teasers and competitions.
"This is the most successful way to overcome the fears of the Baby Boomers and effectively communicate with a wide spectrum of employees from various generations,” advises Carmen.
“Corporate communications specialists have the necessary knowledge and insight to conduct a campaign that is basically the equivalent of performance management on steroids. Owners and managers of businesses may feel they can do the job as well but at the end of the day they are too close to the situation to be objective and effective.”
FusionDesign recently showed off their corporate communications skills by conducting an internal communications and organisational development planning campaign for Metropolitan Health on a national level that saw Metropolitan Health being recognised by UK based company Investors in People (IiP) as a top employer.
Investors in People (IiP) is an international standard which recognises organisations committed to developing their most important assets, their people, through structured and successful people development strategies and interventions. It sets out a level of good practice for the management and development of people to achieve business goals.
“IiP accredited organisations generally have one thing in common – a firm belief that making an investment in people yields returns to their clients and business in general. As corporate communications specialists, FusionDesign are very pleased and proud to have been involved in the awarding of this recognition to Metropolitan Health,” concur the Lerm sisters.