From Generation Z to Baby Boomers, employers face the challenge of delivering an internal communications strategy that fits a multi-generational workforce. V Formation’s Jemma Taylor-Smith shares some tips for developing an internal communications strategy that effectively engages all generations.
The importance of internal communications
Internal communications (or internal comms, as it is commonly known as) is key for all organisations and, as well as engaging and motivating employees, also ensures that the whole team is working collaboratively towards a common goal. When done correctly, internal comms can:
- Provide a purpose – in order to be at their most effective, employees need to understand the organisation’s goals and how they can contribute to achieving them.
- Ensure employees accurately deliver the brand promise – if employees are aware of the organisation’s values and have bought into them, they will have a clearer understanding of how to interact effectively with key stakeholders to meet their expectations of the brand.
- Provide transparency and build trust – not communicating effectively with employees could result in rumours and the dreaded ‘Chinese whispers’. If employees feel kept in the loop, they are much more likely to have peace of mind and trust that they understand the organisation’s current situation, without having to seek out information from unreliable sources.
- Create a better working environment – effective communications with employees will result in an engaged and motivated workforce who are likely to be more productive and less likely to leave.
Developing an effective internal comms strategy
It is clear that getting your internal comms right is vital for organisations. However, the diversity within a workforce can provide a challenge when developing an internal comms strategy. It isn’t just generational differences that need to be considered, but also different personality types and preferences. With so many different styles and preferences to take into consideration, it’s easy to understand why some organisations choose to avoid the issue altogether.
There are, however, a few things that should be considered to help ensure that your internal comms strategy is effective and engages as many employees as possible. We’ve set out a few tips below, to help you develop an internal comms strategy that works.
Understand generational differences
In order to be able to effectively communicate across all generations in the workforce, it’s important that you understand what is important to them.
- Baby Boomers: Born between 1940-1959 – Baby Boomers are often characterised as workaholics, who are ambitious and self-sufficient. They generally prefer stability and security over freedom and self-expression. This generation is likely to prefer face-to-face or phone communication over digital methods.
- Generation X: Born between 1960 – 1979 – Generation Xers often value a strong work-life balance, a sense of freedom and the ability to maintain their independence. They tend to favour blunt, direct communication styles and are often a fan of email.
- Generation Y or ‘Millennials’: Born between 1980-1994 – As the first generation to experience the internet, Millennials naturally favour digital forms of communication. They generally value inclusivity, diversity and purpose over monetary compensation. Millennials also tend to crave positive feedback and recognition. You can read more about Millennials in our previous article.
- Generation Z (Gen Z): Born between 1995 – 2010 – The latest generation to enter the workforce, Gen Z are true digital natives and prefer to consume information visually. They also tend to be independent, confident, autonomous and entrepreneurial. McKinsey provides some interesting insights into the characteristics of Gen Z and the implications for organisations.
But, think wider!
Whilst understanding and being aware of the differences between generations is important, it’s also worth remembering that the generational traits and characteristics provide a broad overview and are generalisations. Not everyone within a particular generation will conform to the ‘rules’. Employees will also have different personality types and are likely to come from a whole variety of backgrounds, which will also have an impact on their traits and preferences.
Keep it simple
Regardless of communication preferences, messages need to be easily understood by the entire workforce.
Messages that are clear, concise and easy to understand are much more likely to be acted upon.
Internal comms should have a purpose and not just be about ticking a box. Employees can tell when something is forced and insincere, so it’s important to be authentic. Setting clear objectives around internal comms will ensure that they have meaning.
Utilise a variety of communication channels
Employees will have preferences about how they want to receive and consume information. For this reason, it’s vital to use a mix of verbal, written and digital communication. For example, some people may prefer verbal, face-to-face updates, whilst others may prefer email or the ability to access messages through an intranet.
Take a balanced approach
No matter how hard you try, you’ll never be able to please every single person in your organisation (unless it’s very small!). As long as you are utilising a variety of channels, you need to appeal to the majority and achieve a balance.
Develop and embed strong values
Your organisational values should provide the foundation for your internal comms strategy. All communication, both internal and external should be formulated with your values in mind.
Strong values represent who the organisation is and what it stands for and drive the organisational culture. They will also help with making sure your communications are authentic.
Encourage relationship building
The better your team know and like each other, the more likely they are to communicate more effectively and in turn work together better. Plan team days and provide opportunities for team members to socialise and build relationships outside of the day-to-day workplace.
Take advantage of generational differences
Many successful organisations embrace the differences in their workforce and use them to benefit the whole organisation. Schemes and policies around work-life balance, employee wellbeing and reverse mentoring will benefit and motivate the whole organisation, not just those whose generation traits they are most likely to appeal to.
Constructing communications that appeal to and engage employees does not have to be overly complicated. Whilst it’s important to give consideration to generational and personality traits and characteristics, developing an internal comms strategy that keeps things simple, authentic and easy to access will ensure messages are communicated effectively to the entire workforce.
V Formation works with businesses to help them engage with their employees of all generations through implementing effective internal comms strategies that are tailored specifically to their requirements.