December 1, 2022

How to develop an internal comms strategy that engages all generations

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With Generation Z now an established part of today’s workforce, how do you effectively deliver an internal comms strategy that engages multiple generations? V Formation’s marketing experts share some top tips to help.

A multi-generational workforce has many advantages, but it can also present some challenges, particularly when it comes to communication and engagement. There is increasing pressure on businesses to develop or adapt their internal communications (or internal comms, as it is commonly known) to ensure that they engage all generations, from Gen Z to Baby Boomers, who have vastly different preferences for how they receive information. Before we share our top tips for getting your internal comms strategy right, it’s worth highlighting why it’s important.

The importance of internal communications

Internal comms engage and motivate employees as well as ensure that the whole team is working collaboratively towards a common goal. When done correctly, internal comms can:

  • Clarify and 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 with employees can result in rumours and the dreaded ‘Chinese whispers’. If employees feel kept in the loop, it builds trust, reassurance and understanding and they’ll be less likely to seek out information from unreliable sources.
  • Create a better working environment – effective communications with employees creates a more ‘open’ culture which can improve motivation and productivity. A good working environment will also encourage people to stay.

How to develop an effective internal comms strategy

Getting your internal comms right is key to employee engagement, as we explain above. However, the diversity within a workforce can be challenging when developing an internal comms strategy. It isn’t just generational differences (although this often presents the most challenges) 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.

We’ve set out a few tips below, to help you engage as many employees as possible and develop an internal comms strategy that works for your organisation.

1. Understand generational differences

Although many of the Baby Boomer generation have reached retirement age, we know people are living and working longer, and so they are still very much an active part of today’s workforce. But with Gen Z now an established and growing part of the mix, understanding what is important to each generation in their careers and how they prefer to consume information is essential to effective communications.

  • 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 earlier article here.
  • 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 and in bite-size chunks. 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.

2. But, think wider!

Whilst understanding and being aware of the differences between generations is important, it’s also worth remembering that 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.

3. 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.

4. Be consistent

Ensuring you deliver the same message at the same time to all relevant parties is critical for successful comms. This is particularly important with key messages, especially in bigger organisations, to avoid people hearing about important news before others do.

5. Be authentic

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. According to McKinsey, the behaviours of Gen Zers, in particular, centres around their search for the truth. Setting clear objectives for your internal comms will ensure that they have meaning and will improve employee buy-in.

6. Utilise a variety of communication channelsInternal comms

The generational differences of employees are most prominent in the way they prefer to receive and consume information, which largely impacts your methods of communication. The channels you use to deliver your internal comms needs to engage the new, true digital cohort as well as the older generations that favour more traditional approaches. It’s therefore vital to use a mix of verbal, written and digital communication channels. For example, you might consider verbal updates either face-to-face or via Teams/Zoom, emails and/or the ability to access information through an intranet or messaging platform such as Slack.

7. 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 focus on appealing to the majority and achieve a balance. For those companies that attract a higher proportion of Gen Z employees, this may mean you need to up your game with digital communications to ensure you keep them engaged and retain them for longer.

8. 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.

9. 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 that provide opportunities for team members to socialise and build relationships outside of the day-to-day workplace. And include team/company planning days – they will not only help to strengthen working relationships, but employees will be more engaged if they feel part of the bigger picture. And quite often, you’ll glean some great ideas!

10. 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 factor in generational preferences 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.

If you’d like some help getting your internal comms strategy right for your business, contact our marketing communication experts here or give us a call on 0115 787 0206.

 

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