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Safety Management Insights

How to Communicate with a Multigenerational Workforce

Posted by Doug Shoemaker on Nov 4, 2019 8:45:00 AM

multigenerational-workforceGiven delayed retirements, longer life spans and a growing labor pool, the multigenerational workplace is fast becoming the norm. Comprising roughly 35% of the workforce, Millennials have maintained the highest representation since 2016, with Gen Xers, Baby Boomers and Generation Z following at 33%, 25% and 5%, respectively.

What do these numbers mean for safety professionals and HR admins? For most companies, intergenerational mingling requires an understanding of different communication styles. From mobile phones to the internet to social media, the last few decades’ technological advancements have forever changed the ways we interact with one another. While Boomers came of age with phones and fax machines, Millennials have been relying on texts, tweets and rapidly digestible online content for over a decade.

Fortunately, there are plenty of productive ways to navigate these differences. By playing to your employees’ preferred methods of communication, you can best leverage everyone’s strengths and foster a happier, safer and more productive working environment. The following are a few of the most important points to understand.

The Generational Rundown

Words such as “Millennial” and “Boomer” are ubiquitous these days, but just what do they mean? Definitions vary, but most sources offer the same general rundown.

Baby Boomers: Born between 1946 and 1964, they are typically a company’s most experienced employees. They’ve got their eyes on retirement, but they also want to leverage their experience and leave lasting legacies.

Generation X: Born from 1965 to 1980, Gen Xers often occupy senior and supervisorial positions. With well-established families and careers, many are looking to take on more responsibilities and executive roles.

Millennials: Also known as Generation Y, Millennials were born between 1981 and 1996, and they’ll comprise the majority of the workforce by 2026. Most have graduated from college within the last decade, and they’re eager to learn and move past lower-level positions.

Generation Z: Born 1997 and later, Gen Z primarily includes recent and soon-to-be college grads. While they make up a small portion of today’s workforce, they’ll soon fill the shoes vacated by fast-rising Millennials.

Differing Values

Admins seeking better workplace communication often focus on technologies and styles. For instance, Boomers tend to favor formal emails and phone calls, while Millennials typically opt for instant messages. Allowing each group to use their preferred tools and tactics may help to foster clearer, more frequent communication.

However, understanding different employees’ values and goals will have an even greater impact on your ability to reach them. Likewise, not playing to stereotypes and assumptions is essential to open lines of communication.

Boomers, for example, are often seen as overly ambitious and political, but they’re well-known for their optimism and work ethic. Similarly, Millennials, often maligned as job-hoppers, are seeking positions where they can make meaningful contributions and feel financially secure in a post-financial crisis world.

Ultimately, clear communication requires that you avoid generational stereotypes and speak to your employees’ values, goals and legitimate concerns. People of every age want to be heard and understood, and roadblocks are often the result of fundamental misunderstandings.

Learning Styles

If you’re conducting safety training or HR-related classes, you may have found it tough to relate to a generationally diverse audience. As a rule, Boomers favor lectures and personalized training, Gen X favors self-directed learning, while Millennials and Gen Z prefer a mix of the two.

Fortunately, technology can make it much easier to get the word out to people with different learning styles. You’ll likely conduct in-person lectures, but those can be supplemented with online training modules employees can access on their own time and at their own pace. An electronic management system also ensures everyone receives the information they need, even if they access it in different ways.

Mentorship and Team-Building

Mentorship between generations is an opportunity to turn differences into strengths. Older, more experienced employees get to pass on knowledge and feel valued, while younger workers can quickly learn and improve productivity. What’s more, people who experience either side of mentorship are more likely to see the benefits both younger and older coworkers bring to their work environments.

When it comes to HR and safety training, mentorships can be leveraged to pass on critical information in a helpful context. For instance, an on-the-job learning session between an experienced tradesperson and a new hire is a great time to discuss a new, job-specific safety policy.

Face-to-face Interactions

Contrary to popular assumptions regarding tech preferences and the efficiency of asynchronous communication, nothing beats in-person interaction. In fact, the majority of Generation Z has reported a preference for face-to-face contact over instant messaging and email.

One-on-one interactions aren’t possible in every situation, of course, but a little goes a long way — particularly when you’re pushing the adoption of new safety policies. It’s essential to have a centralized, well-documented hub of information, but employees of every generation will only use that hub if they know and trust the people who produce it.

A Multigenerational Safety Team

Last but not least, it’ll be easier to communicate to a generationally diverse workforce if your safety personnel and HR teams are diverse themselves! If you’re looking for new hires, consider someone outside the generational norm — particularly if there’s a big difference between the average age of your team and the rest of the company.

Leveraging Electronic Communication

Quality communication comes with time, consistency and a willingness to understand others’ points of view. That said, good tools can certainly make it easier.

One of the best ways to get the word out on new policies, training and other safety-related matters is to use a centralized, electronic safety management system. With everything from training schedules to SDS to OSHA documentation in one place, your workers will have easy access to all the information they need, and you’ll have more time to speak to them face-to-face.

To learn how a comprehensive, centralized safety software suite can help your company, contact BasicSafe today for a free demonstration.

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