The differences in communication preferences is not surprising when you consider the different technology that each generation has grown up with. Technology has determined for each generation, the speed and ease with which each generation has been able to communication. The faster and easier the technology the more frequent the communication.
Traditionalists – also called the silent generation due to their preference for privacy and respect for authority. Prefer face to face or written communication. Words are powerful to this generation. This generation grew up with regular snail mail as the primary form of business correspondence. The telephone was also used to communicate with customers and fellow employees.
Baby Boomers – body language is important, speak in a clear, and direct manner. Be prepared to be asked a lot of questions and have details to backup your position. Snail mail was augmented with FexEd allowing overnight communication. Personal computers and word processors allowed baby boomers to more swiftly send and receive messages.
Gen Xers – prefer informal communication style, use email as a primary means of communication. Ask them for feedback and provide regular feedback. Keep them informed and updated on a regular basis. Have grown up with a high level of immediacy. From microwaves to ATM machines Gen Xers are not accustom to having to wait very long for anything.
Gen Y – likes action words and opportunities to take risks. Ask for their feedback and regularly provide them feedback. Don’t let them feel that you are talking down to them. Have grown up with real time information available and updated minute by minute.
In When Generations Collide, the authors describe the generational clashpoint around the preferences for feedback which further illustrates the need for varying communication strategies.
Traditionalist “No news is good news”
Baby Boomer “Feedback once a year, with lots of documentation”
Generation Xers “Sorry to interrupt, but how am I doing?”
Gen Y “Feedback whenever I want it at the push of a button”
Technology has shaped the way and speed with which generations prefer to receive information and feedback. However, the only completely safe and accurate way of finding out an individual’s preferred communication style is to ask them.