How a multi generational workforce is affecting the role of Internal Communications
For the first time in history, the workplace is now made up of 5 different generations. These include:
• Traditionalists (pre-1946)
• Baby Boomers (1946-1964)
• Generation X (1965-1976)
• Millennials or Generation Y (1977-1997)
• Generation Z (after 1997)
All the talk of late has very much focussed on Millennials and how organisations can best attract, engage and retain them. It’s justified, given that Millennials are becoming the largest group in the workforce and so in turn the most influential too – even more so when they soon dominate the positions of power.
Millennials have changed the world of work in a number of ways, these include:
• They’ve brought new technologies into the workplace – BYOD – to create the ‘consumer-like’ experience that they desire.
• They’ve demand improved collaboration, mobility and flexibility: to give them the ability to work with anyone, from anywhere at anytime.
• They’ve helped to achieve the flattening of organisational structures – moving from command-and-control hierarchical structures to more open structures where each employee has more involvement in decision making and the way they work.
• They view work as being a series of ‘gigs’. Meaning they are less loyal to organisations, and enjoy the freedom and sense of purpose that can be found when taking a ‘freelance’ approach.
• They want to have a clear understanding of both their purpose and that of the organisations, along with sharing the same values as their employer.
What should Internal Communications be doing to adapt to the Millennial change?
When looking at how Millennials have changed the world of work, it becomes fairly evident that arguably any generation would have liked to have seen the previously listed changes. It’s just that now, technology has given Millennials the opportunity, ability, and importantly the voice, needed to assert the influence required to make the change happen.
Therefore, while Internal Communicators should of course recognise the ways the world of work is changing, they would do well to remember that Millennials are not the only generation in the workplace. And so to tar every employee with the millennial brush is somewhat ill advised. Even those classed as millennials have different preferences and working styles to one another.
The right information, in the right place, at the right time.
The above sentence is what any form of communication should be striving to achieve. Something that clearly cannot be accomplished by generalising a workforce.
Instead, Internal Communicators need to tailor messages and respond to behaviour just like an organisations external communications function would do when aiming to engage with consumers.
Employees therefore now need to be treated like consumers. Achieved by focusing on the following 3 key areas.
1. Employee profiling
It’s surprising just how few organisations have a clear understanding of their own employees. Undertaking research on your workforce will help to identify clusters of employees who share similar characteristics. Assigning these employees into identifiable groups means Internal Communicators will be equipped with the insight that allows them to better engage with workers.
Specific campaigns can be created that really connect with the target audience, as the profiling should identify:
• The types of information a specific group of employees require (the right information)
• How they would like to receive the information. The channel/platform and the format of the communication (in the right place)
• When and how often they want to receive communications, and at any critical/specific times relevant to their role (at the right time)
Of course, employee profiling is not a one off thing and so should be updated regularly. Which leads us nicely into the next point…
2. Employee Listening
Measurement has now for far too long been an area of Internal Communications that has been widely neglected. It’s a sad fact that many Internal Communicators know the importance of measurement, but few actually carry it out.
But with the wealth of data (big data) flooding the workplace due to things such as social media, and organisations knowing the importance and benefits (competitive advantage) of making sense of it, measurement is no doubt going to rise to the forefront and be of vital importance.
Internal Communications quite simply need to ‘listen’ to the workforce more. Listening is a vital stage in the employee profiling process, and continued listening is also essential in order to regular monitor and update employee profiles.
Listening helps to understand what exactly it is your audience wants and equally as important, what they don’t. For example, content shared on an organisations internal social network may be thought to be great by those creating and sharing it, but those reading it reacted in a different way, signalling that it was the wrong content to create.
Also, conversations relating to certain business decisions can reveal the mood of the workforce, helping to inform any subsequent communications that may be needed and also any other future decisions. And ‘listening’ can help to identify certain employees or groups of employees who are subject expects and so can help with knowledge sharing, or who may hold strong social influence who could become potential employee ambassadors.
Listening, and measurement in general, will provide internal communicators with the knowledge they need to ensure they are making the right decisions and focusing their efforts in the right place. Ultimately, measurement will therefore improve the results of internal communication activities.
3. User Experience Design
Often the reason organisations experience difficulty with internal digital tools, is because the user experience was an afterthought to the technology. Therefore, the digital tools fail to supply the user with the information and experience required to warrant any further use.
Prior research and testing should have been carried out to identify the appropriate tech solution and the features required that meet the needs of the user.
Also, all too often tools are developed in isolation and managed by different groups within the organisation. This inevitably leads to a fragmented user experience.
Internal communicators need to ensure user experience is central to all Internal comms strategy, with research and testing of digital tools crucial for success.
The best internal communicators and most successful organisations will be those who understand that:
Employees should not be expected to struggle to find the information they want.
Instead, relevant information should find them – wherever they may be – based largely on their profile and listening to find out what it is they want.
Ultimately, that is how Internal communications needs to adapt to millennials multi generational workplace a multi work style approach.
Until next time…