Communicating with Different Generations of Landscape Professionals - National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Communicating with Different Generations of Landscape Professionals

Communication is crucial to getting the job done, keeping your teams informed and having a cohesive workforce in your landscaping business. Nowadays there are multiple channels of communication and you can have up to five different generations working together.

With all these different avenues of communication and various generational interpretations of behavior and messaging, miscommunication can be common. Tensions can form from perceived passive-aggressiveness. However, this doesn’t have to be the case.  

Each generation has its preferences on a specific medium, frequency or speed of communication. These are driven by the generation’s expectations and perspectives that have been shaped by the period of time they grew up in.

Who Falls in What Generation?

You’ve probably heard of Baby Boomers and Millennials, but sometimes the other generations’ names can be forgotten or confused. As for what years define what generation a person falls in, these are disputed somewhat. The only definitive threshold that exists is the Baby Boomer bracket that the U.S. Census Bureau defines as people born from 1946 to 1964.

Here’s a breakdown of the different demographics you might see in your workplace:

  • Silent Generation – born from 1928 to 1945.
  • Baby Boomers – born from 1946 to 1964.
  • Generation X – born from 1965 to 1979/1980.
  • Millennials (also known as Generation Y) – born from 1981 to1994/96.
  • Generation Z – born from 1997 to 2012/15.

Preferred Communication Styles

Silent Generation

While most people in the Silent Generation have already retired, there is still a minority of them in the workforce so it’s important to not overlook this oldest demographic still working. They grew up without today’s technology and many other conveniences and are hard workers. They value duty, dedication and sacrifice. They value in-person discussions and should be encouraged to share their knowledge and expertise. They tend to communicate with a high level of formality with both written and spoken communication.

Baby Boomers

Baby Boomers make up about 25 percent of the workforce. While they didn’t grow up with computers, they are able to use technology for job-related tasks. They have a strong work ethic and prefer formal face-to-face interactions, phone calls and email when it comes to communication. Boomers value the personal connections they craft with their coworkers and clients. Baby Boomers tend to require less feedback than some of the younger generations.

Gen X

Gen X makes up around 33 percent of the workforce. They prefer email, phone, and texts and value professional etiquette. Gen Xers were the early adopter of email so this tends to be their personal preference. They tend to be independent and self-sufficient. They can often serve as a bridge between Baby Boomers and Millennials when it comes to communication. This generation likes to be challenged and prefers direct communication.

Millennials

Millennials prefer to communicate via email, text and chat. They grew up texting instead of calling friends and family and find phone calls inefficient and prefer written communications. Using messaging apps they can send and receive short messages that get to the point. They value efficiency and a digital-first approach. Millennials thrive on lots of feedback, but it needs to be feasible and productive.

Gen Z

Up and coming to the workforce is Generation Z as they graduate from college and look for their first jobs. Gen Zers are the first generation to grow up as digital natives as there was never a time in their generation smartphones and the internet were not around. Due to lightning-fast internet speeds by their time, this can influence Gen Z’s expectation for rapid responses. They prefer to communicate face-to-face and want upfront and honest conversations.

Remember that these preferred communication styles are guidelines, not rules. Perception and stereotypes can result in communication gaps as well if you assume your Gen Z workers must only want to communicate via text when 83 percent of them prefer to engage with their managers in person.

Best Communication Practices

While generational communication preferences are a good clue as to how an employee wants to communicate, the best thing to do is be proactive and inform others on the best methods to connect with you. Ask others what their preferred communication channels are rather than assuming.   

Be clear on your communication expectations and what is acceptable in the workplace. When reaching out to a co-worker, defer to their preferred communication channel. It’s important that the communicator is using the channel the other person is most likely to receive the message. Also, match the right channel for the message. Phone calls should be used for long, detailed conversations while chat or texting should be saved for informal messages, collaborating and socializing.

Also, respond to communication using the same channel it was received in. If a Millennial sends a text the response should not be to call them but to answer the message in a text as well. If you do need to switch channels of communication, recap what has already been discussed on the new channel.

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the content manager for NALP.

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