communicating with generations

In a multigenerational work environment like ag, successful communication requires acknowledging what enables effective message delivery to each unique generation. Between Generation Z and our Baby Boomers, there’s a 50-year age gap in the workforce. And that doesn’t account for Generation X and Traditionalists who might be running the ag businesses behind the scenes.

GenerationsThough each generation is assigned surrounding decades and historical world events, they are approximations. Many of us defined by one generation are actually on the cusp of a new generation.

We’re bringing this up for a reason. Short of the Spanish Flu in 1918, our country has never seen anything like coronavirus in modern history, and it was a vastly different experience back then. When it comes to communicating, whether it’s in ag marketing or branding your business, it’s important to know your audience and to carry the right tone. As we start to move forward and re-establish a new normal, this is the perfect time to address how we communicate individually and how that makes us communicate better together.

It’s not easy being green

Yes, it was a young Kermit that sang that, but the focus here is on the green of youth – the life and vibrancy and spirit with which they engage. Today’s younger generations bring different operational styles, tendencies and motivations because they’ve grown up surrounded by technology, the digital age and social media.

This familiarity with social media often comes with negative connotations, but it can mean greater engagement for your business. For example, younger generations are accustomed to mediums such as YouTube, online classes and such – there may be ways that they can work with you to incorporate videos and classes into your business or ag marketing materials, where you might otherwise not have that capability.

Though the confidence and entrepreneurial spirit younger generations bring to business can be inspiring, their communication can also be informal. Whereas older generations may have an expectation of more formal internal communications, younger generations may do well to ensure that they adjust their communication styles and obtain any additional communications skills as needed, particularly as it may reflect on their professionalism, business skills and abilities.

Acknowledge our differences with respect

The first rule of order in multigenerational communication should be respect for all. Though they don’t realize it, all generations can learn from one another. Similarly, they can’t be afraid to challenge each other’s values – respectfully. Values change over time and there is nothing wrong with that. Notes Sarah Beth Aubrey of AgWeb, “If someone younger questions you about ‘the why’ and you can’t explain it, frankly it was probably worth questioning.” Mature generations must be open to teaching and questions, and younger generations must be willing to learn.

Finally, they should set expectations to confirm that everyone is on the same page. Confirm that all generations working together recognize what is expected. This sets the organization up for success.

The multigenerational ag environment validates the successful combination of earned authority, applied knowledge and new, pragmatic ideas that propel us into the digital age. Let’s embrace our diversity and challenge the new normal.