There’s a generational gap: appealing to different messaging habits

By Samantha McCabe
June 23, 2021
5 min read
If you appeal to different messaging habits across the generational divide, your internal comms will resonate.

Today’s workforce is made up of four to five generations working together, each with their own preferences on how they like to receive communication. This opens up a minefield of sorts for internal communicators: email or texts for quick updates? Is Slack or Microsoft Teams better? What are the benefits of a mobile-first approach?

And once you know the answers to all these questions and more, is your communications strategy and technology designed to deliver?

In a recent webinar, the IC team tried to tackle those queries.

Read on for our guide to making sure your messaging appeals to employees of all ages—including some helpful advice on which emojis are so 2017.    

Why should you keep generational gaps in mind while crafting your internal comms strategy?

First, it’s important to ask ourselves why intergenerational communication approaches are even relevant to the work internal comms professionals are doing today.

We love this quote by David Galowich, from a Forbes article he wrote a few years ago: “Respect the communication preferences of the recipient. In order to do this, you must be comfortable using multiple communication modes and be willing to understand how others prefer to communicate. Relationships are built one conversation at a time. Make sure you are making the most out of every conversation.”  

To us as internal communicators, making the most out of every conversation means not only keeping the channel preferences of your employees in mind—though that is a great first step–being mindful of the tone and language they use in the workplace. Internal comms have the power to make employees feel more connected to and engaged with their workplace, but if the slang in your message is incomprehensible to an older employee or the over-corporatized tone feels isolating to a younger employee, you’re losing that connection piece.

If we go back to our 7-principle methodology here—the basis of our internal comms philosophy—being mindful of generational gaps in your messaging pertains to the audience, channel, and content.  

Ideal internal comms environment

Related reading: The power of knowing your audience: segmentation in internal comms

Our “clues” to generational communication and messaging habits in internal comms

You now have an understanding of why generational communication is important. But where do you begin? We have a few “clues” about messaging habits to get you started, broken down by generation.

Baby Boomers (who make up approximately 25% of the US workforce) prefer formal and direct communication, such as face-to-face catch-ups, phone calls, or email. They value background information and solid details.  

Generation X’ers (who make up approximately 33% of the US workforce) value informal and flexible (yet still professional) communications, with a preference for using email, phone, text, and even Facebook.  

Millennials (who make up approximately 35% of the US workforce) value authentic and efficient communications, and prefer using text, chat, email, and Instagram. They are fully transitioned to a digital-first approach.  

Generation Z’ers (who make up approximately 5% of the US workforce, but that number is growing quickly) value transparent communications with an emphasis on visuals and video, whether that’s face-to-face, Snapchat, YouTube, TikTok, or Facetime. They almost always prefer a mobile-first approach.  

Hopefully, this gives you a better idea of how you can communicate with your workforce in their preferred style. Think about the make-up of your own organization and what roles those different generations typically occupy as a starting point. Karen’s advice? Pick a few “friendlies” of different generations from across the organization and pick their brains about their preferences.  

Adjusting your comms for younger employees can be trendy, too

Ultimately, it’s about keeping your ear to the ground and having friendliness and accessibility top-of-mind.  

You’ll never be entirely on top of the quick trends and developments of communications—but you can try! Let’s start you off: the laughing-crying emoji (we know you know it, and it might even be at the top of your repertoire), has been declared absolutely passé by Gen Z. (If you’re looking to replace it, the skull emoji has taken its place among young people to denote finding something funny.) That’s just one silly example of how the generations communicate differently, but it’s indicative of the small variations in how people receive and respond to you.  

It might be interesting to start experimenting with integrating some of these emerging tools and trends into your workplace communications, and seeing how they affect your engagement levels. Just remember, at the end of the day, quality information and clarity in delivery come first.  

How our internal comms software can help

We’re all too aware that many internal communicators are strapped for time and under-resourced, and this affects their ability to deliver quality, customized messaging to all employees.  

Our Push communications extension, when used in parallel with our intranet software, has a variety of features that can help you approach the issues we outlined in this blog: it allows discrete user profiles, where you can keep track of all your employees and even organize them into audience folders and lists. Using these features, you can easily keep your database up to date and target specific groups with our messaging.  

Employees also have the ability to select their order of channel preference—taking away a lot of the stress of deciding whether an internal comms message is better suited for email or text. As communicators go to send a message, they can select which channel strategy they prefer, with one of the choices being according to employee preference.  

There are lots of other useful tools throughout our software that will help you organize your efforts, engage employees, and measure tangible results. Interested in learning more about our software? You can start a free trial or book a demo today!

By Samantha McCabe