Author(s), Title and Publication
Stanton, R. (2017). Communicating with employees: Resisting the stereotypes of generational cohorts in the workplace. IEEE Transactions on Professional Communication, Professional Communication, 60(3), 256-272. doi:10.1109/TPC.2017.2702078

Generational stereotypes are a wide spread topic across many professional and research disciplines. Working to decrease the prevalence of generational stereotyping, literature on the topic commonly encourages managers to learn about the differences of each cohort so that they can tailor their communication to each cohort. Logically, knowing the differences between generations provides managers of technical communication teams or any team with more effective strategies to communicate with, motivate, and retain members of each cohort. A large body of research suggests however, that learning the characteristics of a generation as a communication strategy may be too broad to establish the type of meaningful connections necessary to attempt to measure organizational outcomes.

This study utilized surveys from 107 participants and semi-structured interviews with eight of those participants who were employees at a software company or who were students or employees at a local university to evaluate generational stereotypes. Specifically, the study examined whether members of a particular generational cohort behave according to the stereotypes assigned to their cohort and whether members believe that the stereotypes assigned to their generation are accurate. Results suggest engaging with individual employees rather than relying on stereotypes of generational cohorts creates long-lasting bonds with employees and therefore facilitates effective communication. Learning about employees on an individual level, the study suggests, is positively associated with enhanced job satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately employee retention. The study further points to satisfaction, engagement, and retention as unique individual variables, as opposed to variables that measure highly-differentiated groups of employees such as an entire generation. A multitude of factors, such as geographic location, gender, the way someone was raised, professional experience, educational experience, etc., have potential to influence one generation’s perception, making satisfaction, engagement and retention difficult to measure at the generational level, thus highlighting the importance of one-on-one communication to help pull more meaning from these variables.

Implications for Practice
Organizations should (1) learn about individual employees’ preferences in communication and leadership style through simple conversations or surveys, and then (2) work to motivate employees by letting them know that they are appreciated and valued, and (3) engage individual employees in conversations about work habits and expectations to help foster workplace relationships.

Location of Article
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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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