Bridging the Generational Digital Divide to Strengthen Culture
Millennials became the largest generation in the workforce in 2016. Today, they represent 35% of all workers, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data. While some businesses are making big changes to better fit the needs of these digital natives, when you change your company’s way of doing things, it is important do it with the right balance in mind. Millennials are just one element of our diversifying workforce that currently includes employees from Baby Boomers to Gen X and even some newcomers: Gen Z. Each generation has different work styles and preferences, and the same is true when it comes to workplace communications.
So how do we ensure that four different generations are able to communicate and collaborate effectively when communications preferences and styles vary so widely?
Understand your team’s preferences
Every individual, regardless of generation, should be able to communicate in their preferred method. But this doesn’t always mean that your new grad wants to connect over chat and your 30-year workforce veteran still likes to pick up the phone. Check in with your employees - both new and seasoned - to see how they prefer to interact. Understand which media types are their favorites and what they consider to be the most effective for collaboration. This will both increase team productivity but also show your employees that their preferences and methods matter to you.
Leverage each other’s strengths
The greatest way to build team efficiency, and trust between employees, is to highlight individual’s strengths and foster their learning from one another. Collaboration tools allow for on-demand sharing and coaching, so whether it’s a new hire chatting the team links to productivity hacks or an executive doing a video conference on managing up, employees ultimately can benefit from the group mindshare. By making group sharing and learning simple and easy, you can encourage everyone to focus on the what instead of getting bogged down in the how.
Provide flexibility that benefits all
Being able to communicate when, where, and how you prefer isn’t just convenient for workers from different age groups, it’s key to bridging the gap that otherwise crops up between generations. Switching seamlessly from mobile to video to messaging, sharing screens and documents, and providing virtual group workspaces encourages agility and productivity for individuals throughout their day. Having to leave the office early to grab your daughter from soccer practice no longer requires conference call gymnastics and scheduling puzzles, and coming down with the common cold no longer means missing a meeting.
Build on your culture
In today’s digital workforce, creating and maintaining a strong company culture that reflects the attitudes of all employees is a challenge. And allowing workers to define the culture themselves is no longer enough. By clearly defining the culture of your company, what the shared goals and objectives are and how everyone contributes to achieving them, you can build a stronger company culture - one which values individual contributions and fosters teamwork.
An essential part of company culture is how employees communicate with one another. If you lower the conventional barriers to communicating, you enable everyone to focus on being productive and to allowing groups and teams to naturally form and morph as the business needs call for. When you allow people to communicate the way they want, from wherever they want, employees will have greater incentives to do great work, and companies will see an increase in workplace efficiency and productivity.
Learn more about the future of work and the digital workplace in our recent survey report, Workforce Futures: The role of people in the future of work, which you can download here.