Every mode for every generation: Be prepared to communicate through all channels

The American workforce has changed in a lot of ways over the past few decades. But one of the most interesting changes we’ve seen is that we now have, for the first time, four different generations working side-by-side. Today’s workforce is comprised of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen X’ers, and Millennials.

Because members of these generations grew up under different circumstances, it’s common to hear from Human Resources professionals that their multigenerational workers sometimes prefer to work differently, communicate differently, and be managed differently from each other. While there are differences in many ways, getting employees, irrespective of generation, to pay attention to their benefits is a challenge. In a recent Forrester study of 100 Fortune 500 HR professionals, seventy-seven percent of HR pros report having difficulty getting their employees to read updates on benefits. In today’s age of the customer, employees choose how they want to consume content and access information.

Responding to the changing nature of their audience, HR pros have started to use various modes of communications based on the mix of generations in their workforce. However, while it is beneficial (and interesting) to map channels like SMS, email, apps and direct mail to generations, these generalizations (just like most generalizations) don’t always hold up.

Even though data suggests that each generation does have a preferred communication mode, it’s almost never a “landslide” preference of one over the others. In a benefits survey Evive Health conducted with 87,000 employees of a large Fortune 500 retailer, we saw that the most preferred mode was ranked highest by between 47 – 60 percent of the generation’s population (Silent: 47% email; Boomers: 53% email; Gen X: 59% email; Millennials: 60% email). That means that if you simply communicate in the one mode that has the highest ranking within a generational cohort (email, in all of these cases), anywhere from 40 to more than 50 percent of that cohort won’t be receiving communications in their desired medium (Silent: 44% postal, 9% SMS; Boomers: 31% postal, 16% SMS; Gen X: 21% postal, 20% SMS; Millennial: 19% postal, 21% SMS). Each generation has members that care about each mode.

The adage that benefits communication is not “one size fits all” extends to communications channels as well, even within a single generation of employees. To increase engagement and help your employees get the most value out of their benefits, survey your population on the mode in which they prefer to receive communications, and then be prepared to execute across all modes, ideally reaching out to each individual in the mode they prefer. Doing so would put you in the elite five percent of employers who assess their employees’ communication preferences, according to a recent Xerox HR/National Business Group on Health survey.

Ultimately, if your goal is the optimal utilization of benefits, be ready to go multimodal for your multigenerational workforce. What do you do to ensure you’re reaching your employees in the mode they prefer?