Communication Styles Across Generations: 5 Ways to Ensure Understanding

Remember when your choices for business communication were to make a phone call, mail a letter or use that dog-eared manila “interoffice” routing envelope? (Who says older generations weren’t into recycling?) As a proud Gen Xer, I sometimes miss the simplicity, but I also have learned to embrace the versatility of the many new communications options available today.

When you’re working with a variety of generations in the workplace, it’s important to remember that not everyone prefers the same channel of communication. And, once you’ve selected the method of communication, you also need to think about the words you are saying, which also will differ depending on your audience.

Here are five articles I feel had particularly astute observations on melding the different communication styles of the five generations in today’s workplace.

1. Multi-channel for the win

“Most companies rely too heavily on one strategy for corporate communication. By making the same message available in multiple formats (thus increasing the number of times you communicate a message), you’ll ensure that you reach all workers. Silents and Baby Boomers may appreciate verbal communication about changes in policy or procedures, while Generation Xers and Millennials may prefer the use of e-mail, instant messages, or corporate broadcasts.” —Read more at American Management Association.

2. Seeing is believing for hiring Generation Z

“Video recruitment has been steadily seeping into the market: some estimate up to 70% of companies are using some form of video or another in their hiring practices. Live chats and conferencing may dominate the candidate experience today, but video very well could take their place in the near future.” —Read more at HR Dive.

3. Help younger generations understand your communication culture

“By the time you enter the workforce, everyone should be able to professionally communicate
via email, but this doesn’t mean that your younger workers won’t communicate like it’s a text or Snapchat message. Of course, you know your culture best—if you’re in a formal environment, make sure your team members know it’s best to save emojis and GIFs for personal communications.” —Read more at

4. Go old school to make a lasting impression

“While your staff is making the most of MailChimp marketing and donor texting options, never let them lose sight of the benefits of a well-handled phone call or a thank-you note. Joanne Fritz, who blogs about philanthropy at The Balance, extols the virtues of a handwritten note in an age when our inboxes have become ’battlefields, crowded with junk. … Hand-writing postcards or letters gives the message a memorable touch that will connect you to your audience.’” —Read more at

5. Face-to-face communication still wins with all generations

“Contrary to what we might assume, the majority of Millennials and Generation Z have reported a preference for in-person contact over IMs and email. While they value the ability of technological advancements to increase productivity and help them complete tasks, workers in younger generations still see the value in human contact when it comes to collaboration and management. An effective communication strategy will take into account that, while a quick IM could be a good way to check in about a specific detail, a private in-person setting is the best way to have a longer conversation.” —Read more at

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Lindsey is a globally recognized career and workplace expert and the leading voice on generational diversity. She has spoken for more than 300 audiences including Google, Goldman Sachs, Estee Lauder, Stanford and Wharton. Lindsey is the author of four career and workplace advice books, and her insights have appeared in media outlets including The TODAY Show, CNBC, NPR, the Harvard Business Review and the Wall Street Journal.


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