#BTColumn – Dear HR … How do i fix communication challenge at work?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed by the author(s) do not represent the official position of Barbados TODAY.

by Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave

I am in my first HR role and the employees at my workplace are constantly complaining that the company does not communicate. We share information as widely as possible and still employees say that they don’t know what is going on.

Is it me?

We tend to take for granted that as long as we have rules, policies and procedures in place, as a manager or supervisor, all will be well. On the face of it, all should be well.

However, it is impossible to overlook the fact that in disseminating information to our employees., we are dealing with human beings who have their own ideas about what should be done as well as their own perceptions when things are done, and their own interpretation of what is done. They, too, have their preferences.

All managers are charged with the responsibility of ensuring the business’ objectives are met. They are expected to get things done through the people who report to them. Being able to communicate goals and objectives effectively, therefore, should be the number one requirement of their immediate manager/supervisor.

Communication is the one aspect of work life that, in employees’ opinions, needs to be improved. In fact, it usually receives a low rating from them whenever workplace audits are conducted. As individuals, we are quite specific about how we prefer others to communicate with us and how we would like information to be shared with us.

While an employer may not be able to satisfy the preferences of each individual employee, (s)he may be able to satisfy the preferences of specific groups in the workplace. One approach that can ensure the groups are identified and addressed collectively according to their preferences, is that of acknowledging that our workplaces are multigenerational environments.

By taking the preferences of the different generational groupings into account when information is being shared can make for more effective communication between employer and employee, and vice versa.

Generational differences influence how people communicate, how they think and how they work, and the approaches used to communicate with them should target them as they would generally prefer.

What is meant by a multigenerational workplace?

This is not a new concept. For decades, conversations were being held around “generation gaps” which exist. A multigenerational work environment is one which comprises workers from different generations. The generations are defined by major world events that occurred during their lifetime, the general parenting style as well as the rules of socialization that were dominant at the time they were growing up. These variables ultimately influence how individuals communicate, think and work.

What generations are currently in the workforce?

With Barbados’ retirement age currently at 67, workers from four generations are active in the workplace: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Generation Y (millennials) and Generation Z. Each has unique characteristics and worldviews.

Baby Boomers, those born between 1946 and 1965, are the oldest generation currently in the workforce. They are those employees who are currently age 56 and older – those who are at the age of retirement, or will soon reach that age. The youngest “boomers” in the workplace will turn 67 (the current age of retirement) by 2032.

“Baby Boomers” are generally known for their:

• job loyalty

• self-motivation

• high work ethic

• competitiveness and

• willingness to make personal sacrifices for professional success.

• Preference for in person communication (face to face meetings)

Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1980 range in age from 40 to 55. These individuals are known for being:

• Efficient

• Direct in their communication style

• Adaptable to new technologies

• Independent

• Steady and dependable

Generation Y (Millennials) are those individuals born between 1981 and 1996 and range in age between 24 and 40. Millennials have been accused of being entitled and irresponsible, but this particular generation has been influenced by drastic social and socioeconomic changes. Their world view is quite different from that of the generations before.

Among other things, these employees are:

• Competitive

• Achievement-oriented

• Tech-savvy

• Focused on work-life balance

• Open to seeking out unique work experiences

• More comfortable with communication via emails and voice mails

Generation Z is made up of individuals born between (1997-2020). They are the newest members of the workforce and would comprise individuals age 23 and under. These employees have never known a world without the internet as it exists today.

In general, they are:

• Open-minded, progressive

• Tech-savvy

• Individualist (non-conformist) and creative

• Self-directed

• More comfortable with communication via emails and voice mails

Each generational cohort (grouping) has its unique characteristics, values, and outlooks, and familiarizing yourself with each generation can help you create a collaborative, productive workplace. Remember, these are generalizations and all employees’ preferences will still not fit neatly into their generational grouping.

Understanding the perspectives and characteristics of each generation, including their preferred communication method and style, are vital to effective management of and communication with these employees. Your understanding of these preferences will allow you to place their comments within an entirely different framework and help you to understand why communication with them may not be yielding the results you expected. What we have shared, along with your understanding of your workplace dynamics and your employees, should assist you as you seek to improve internal communication to the benefit of your organisation, colleagues, and employees.

About Lifeline Labor Solutions: Lifeline Labor Solutions is a boutique partnership providing people management solutions to workplace challenges Partners Carol-Ann Jordan and Jacqueline Belgrave are established practitioners with a wealth of knowledge and experience in Employment Relationships, Labor Relations and Human Resource Management between them. Email: [email protected] lifelinelabour.com; Tel: 1(246)247-5213

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