United Kingdom

Connecting with a new generation

April 2018

By Jerry Edmondson, Aon Employee Benefits

We’re moving towards a four-generation workforce.

People are living longer than ever but the reality is that not everyone can afford to retire when they want to and are staying in work for longer too. Add in the fact that many retirees are choosing to ‘unretire’ after leaving work and the average workplace is now a mixed age demographic indeed.

There are the Veterans (born between 1925 and 1946), the Baby Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) Generation Y otherwise known as Millennials (born between 1980 and 1994) and Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2009). And now, on the horizon, a whole new generation is emerging. Generation Alpha, according to TEDx speaker, futurist and demographer Mark McCrindle, is anyone born between 2010 and 2025. They are the largest generation the “world has ever seen”. This is the generation who, Business Insider UK says, will change everything.

Although I’d suggest that every generation there has ever been has changed, if not quite everything then certainly a fair bit, with such a mix of generations and their radically different demands, needs and motivations, it’s no wonder that traditional communication methods are becoming obsolete. Employers are having to work harder than ever to engage new generations of employees. It’s no longer really enough to hold ‘lunch and learn’ workshops, send out generic e-comms or run ad-hoc tutorials in the hope a handful of staff will decide to increase their pension contributions.

Gen Y in particular, the latest generation to enter the workforce, are heading up this change in strategy. They’re tech-savvy, highly influential and according to CIO magazine, they’re the ones shaking up workplace communications. They want immediate gratification, mobile-friendly products and services. They’re the ones changing the dynamics of power from employer to employee. In other words, they’re making waves.

“In the past, the individual had no power,” says McCrindle in Business Insider UK. “Now, the individual has greater control of their lives through being able to leverage this world. …Technology, in a sense, transformed the expectations of our interactions. Even new technologies have been transformed. It's not just email — it's instant messaging. It's not just sharing a document online — it's a Prezzi or a YouTube video."

We shouldn’t forget about Generation Alpha in all this, though. Employers may be waiting several years before the first cohort of Generation Alphas enter the workplace (probably because right now, most of them are still in nappies) but if their predecessors are anything to go by, the emerging generation is likely to be highly disruptive (in a good way) and digitally transformative. More so than ever.

Alpha kids will have never known a world before digital technology. As McCrindle explains, they won’t think about digital technology as ‘tools’, instead, they’ll integrate it effortlessly into their lives. Indeed, McCrindle describes Generation Alpha as the most “transformative generation ever” thanks to the “massive technological changes” set to happen in their lifetime.

Employers will have to up the ante to engage with new and emerging generations of employees. The trend is veering towards immersive experiences. Whereas previous generations were content to digest information passively, via newsletters, handouts or emails, digital-savvy generations are wanting to play a much more active role. For them, it’s all about experiences. Have you been there? Have you done that? Have you tried this?

It’s no longer about getting on the property ladder or getting the latest car. It’s about trying a new sport, visiting a new place, immersing yourself in a new culture. For newer generations to really engage, they need to be there, they need to feel it, they need to relate to it.

Think about a colleague’s holiday snaps. How interested are you really in their hundred-odd landscape shots of Mount Vesuvius? But what if you were actually there, actually in the photograph? Chances are you’d be interested then.

User generated content is not a term often heard in the context of employee benefits, but it’s commonplace in our out of work lives through social media.

The message for employers is clear: put the employee at the centre of your comms strategy; let them be the star of the show. Create a sense of excitement, because that, after all is what workplace communications should be about. As Rajneesh Chowdhury says in People Matters magazine: “At the core of employee communications is the need to create excitement about the organization among its people and give them a sense of how they can collaborate to realize both personal aspirations and business goals. This is what drives employee engagement.”



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