Mind The Gap! Bridge the Gap Between Baby Boomers and Millennials in the Workplace

We’re seeing an increase in generational gaps in the workplace as more college graduates are being hired whilst seniors are delaying retirement to a later age. As a result, people of different ages, anywhere from 18 to 70 years old, are working and collaborating together in the office. The blend of baby boomers and millennials and those generations in between, certainly adds diversity. It also adds generational differences in values, lifestyle, experience and technological familiarity, that can lead to bumps along the road.

With Millennials being the largest generation in America with over 75.4 million according to Pew Research Center and surpassing Baby Boomers with roughly 74.9 million, we need to find effective ways to bypass these differences in the workplace. To help bridge the gap we should increase collaboration and offer more opportunities for open communication amongst generations. According to a survey conducted by 15Five from Entrepreneur.com, 81% of full time employees would rather join a company that values “open communication” than one that offers perks such as free food and gym memberships. There’s an overall consensus amongst different generations in the value and importance of open communication in the office.

So, how can offices streamline communication when every generation has their preferred communication method? By taking a look at how every generation communicates and finding a happy medium with communication methods that embrace technology, while satisfying different generational preferences. Generational communication preferences tend to be based on the technology the individuals were exposed to in their lifetime. Alan Kay, American Scientist, says “Technology is anything that wasn’t around when you were born.” As technology advances, the more digital generations become and the more they embrace new communications methods.

Forbes does a great job illustrating how each generation prefers to communicate.

Generally speaking, Baby Boomers tend to prefer face to face communication or phone conversations over email, since they adapted to online communication technology later in their lifetime. Generation X are more knowledgeable and receptive to technology, although it might not be second to nature, they do embrace new advancements like Facebook and email. Millennials on the other hand grew up with technology at their fingertips. Think smartphones, tablets and laptops, and incorporate online communication in all aspects of their lives including social, family and work relationships. Millennials online communications are endless, from social media platforms like Twitter and Snapchat to instant messaging like Facebook chat and WhatsApp. Furthermore they seek/need instant gratification and lack the formalities of prior generations. We see this in their communication style and the increased popularity of instant messaging, which allow conversations to take place in real time. For example, WhatsApp includes a check mark that indicates when the recipient received the message and when it has been read. This informs the sender the status of the conversation as it’s unfolding, eliminating the waiting period that can be experienced with email and dating back further, the written letter.

Traditionalist’s are the ‘lets have a meeting’ generation. In person meetings offer a great value in contributing to interpersonal relationships and group collaboration, but they can be time consuming and expensive when commuting costs accumulate. Furthermore think back to your last face to face meeting, there is often a lot of ‘fussing’ before and after as people are enjoying not being at their desks. By no means am I advocating abolishing this method completely but if we can reduce the amount of meetings and supplement them with online conferences we might notice a more streamlined process.

This scenario offers previous generations who did not always rely on online communication to develop new business communication techniques while giving Millennials who are used to communicating through a screen an opportunity to possess strong traditional interpersonal skills. It’s a great way for both Millennials and Baby Boomers to learn new strategies from each other.

While email and phone calls were once prominent ways to communicate, online messaging and social media are now the leading methods to get in touch with others. Again, these methods do not need to be eliminated completely, but instead supplemented with other online communication platforms to ease the email inbox overflow and constant ringing phones. Need to get a hold of someone? By pinging or tweeting at them, you might receive a faster response. Online communication methods embed similar qualities of email and phone calls that will make this transition easier for previous generations, for example, implementing voice calls within chats or activate a video call by the click of a button.

So how can we attain a happy medium when every generation has their own communication preference? We should incorporate a blend of multiple communication methods that embrace technological advances and keep up with the times, but do not completely abandon previous communication preferences. As stated, in the past, communication in the workplace was primarily conducted through email or in person meetings but now has migrated to online spaces such as social media platforms and online messaging. We should try and find ways to fuse these communication methods together to create a balance and option that every generation feels comfortable using.

Riot’s online collaborative workspace can be a useful messaging platform that can bridge the communication gap by supplementing communication in the office for all generations and eventually serve as the preferred online communication method.

Have a great week.


Join Riot.im today for a better way to communicate with your colleagues, friends & family. Riot is an open source messaging app which has deep functionality such as; end to end encryption (currently in Beta), video & VoIP calls, file transfer, integrations, bridges and most importantly its currently free!