This professor’s story highlights the need to sync up communication channels between generations
Midway through the semester, a university professor came to me very upset about her students. She had e-mailed them a homework assignment, and only one of the eight students had completed it. She was livid and wasn’t sure what to do.
We looked into the situation and learned that most of the students didn’t know about the assignment. Why? The professor had sent it by e-mail, while the students used Facebook messaging for their classes.
Yes, all of the students had been issued e-mail accounts by the university, but many of them had never logged in. Because they considered e-mail slow and outdated, they had instead opted for newer forms of communication like Facebook and text messaging.
Once the professor learned how her students communicated – and the students learned how their professor sent out her assignments – everyone was able to get on the same page.
After that, the students knew to check their university-issued e-mail accounts for assignments, and the professor learned that creating an account on Facebook would prove useful for collaborative discussions and project management.
Sync up your communication channels
Find out which communication channels your students or employees use for information, and establish which channels they’re expected to monitor. If the people you’re trying to reach use different channels, consider adapting your message to the format they’re used to. Here are three ideas to help you be successful.
Make sure your message is received
What’s the best way (e-mail? text? phone?) to get in touch with your employee, family member, or youth group? To find out, ask them! If needed, adapt your style to use the platform they’re familiar with. That might mean you text updates to your younger employees, even though you still make a weekly phone call to your mother.
Stay balanced, keep an open mind, and don’t expect one generation to suffer a major inconvenience to accommodate another. Each generation must be willing to adapt and collaborate, but it’s your responsibility as the sender of the message to communicate your information in ways that will be received.
In addition to a channel for official messages, it’s also important to have a channel where ongoing communication can occur. Be sure to choose a relevant channel for collaboration – whether that’s e-mail, group text messaging, or social media – and make it clear from the start that everyone is expected to monitor and use this channel to stay in the communication loop.
Consider this generational communication cheat sheet when relating to different generations
When communicating with established generations, remember to:
– Listen first, talk second.
– Use proper grammar and punctuation in written communications.
– Use courteous phrases like “Please” and “Thank you.”
– Use respectful phrasing when asking “why” by first sharing your intent.
When communicating with emerging generations, remember to:
– Be open, honest, and transparent.
– Share “why” you are suggesting that they do something.
– Remain open for questions and two-way dialogue.
– Keep your messages short, visual, and to the point. Infographics are a great way to do this!
Communicate in a way that all generations can hear
– Use stories; this medium unites us all as humans.
– Ask questions; they allow each person to relate the issue to his or her personal experience.
– Use multi-generational faces in your advertising.
– Use a variety of channels for your message like newsletters, e-mail, and social media.
– Create classic, timeless brands.
Though there’s always potential for misunderstanding and conflict when different generations interact, there’s also potential to work together in ways that result in a better outcome than any one generation could achieve on its own. So let’s open up the communication lines, sync up our channels, and speak in a way all generations can hear and understand.
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