Harnessing the power of Diversity in the Workplace
Workforces are becoming increasingly diverse – whether it is age, gender or cultural diversity, this transformation of the workplace is impacting on the way that organisations operate. Workforces often now span five generations, a result of more people working until they are older, and an influx of millennials and Gen Z. With Office for National Statistics figures suggesting that children born within the next generation will live beyond 100, workers now can expect to retire at a much later age.
It isn’t just age diversity that is increasing. Greater focus on gender diversity and equality has boosted numbers of women in board level and senior leadership positions, while schemes such as shared parental leave that promote the dual career concept enable women to return to their careers after maternity leave much sooner.
Workforce diversity is being heavily influenced by a predominance of Gen Y, or millennial employees, those entering the workforce after 2000. Someone who joined a company as a graduate then will now be approaching 40 and moving (or will have already moved) into senior management and executive leadership positions, shaping the direction of their organisations. We are seeing a reversal of the earlier challenge of how should organisations accommodate millennials; the millennials will now have to accommodate Gen X and the baby boomers!
This seismic shift in workforce demographics is forcing organisations to rethink the way they engage, motivate and recognise their people, and more importantly the way they communicate with them. Here are five things to consider implementing when developing an employee engagement and communications strategy:-
Match communication methods to employees
Each generation in the workplace has their own set of values, behaviours and preferred communication styles. Gen Y and Gen Z are so comfortable with technology and social media their expectations of being linked into their network is the norm, just as much as Gen X’s expectation of having a car on their drive. Consider how each demographic would prefer to be communicated to – whilst Gen X are comfortable with email, millennials may like some face-to-face mixed in with their ease in Social Media.
Make it mobile
Not everyone in the workforce will have an ‘always on’ internet connection through desktop PC, laptop or tablet, and many will not have such a connection at home. But almost everyone will have a mobile phone, and of those the vast majority will be a smartphone. What organisations have is a ready made communications channel, so make sure you are planning to use this “free” network to get messages out quickly and inexpensively. No need for capital intensive hardware rollouts, just get an “app” and start communicating. And for those organisations with employees who do not yet have smartphones, consider a salary sacrifice mobile scheme to make even leading edge handsets accessible to your workforce.
While email remains the preferred communication channel for many Gen X employees, the “digital natives” in your organisation may find it archaic and cumbersome. Providing smartphones for employees and using ‘push’ technology effectively could become the default channel for getting important information to your workers. Develop a mobile based comms strategy and get “pushing”.
What will the organisational approach to ‘always on’ be as their workforces become more diverse? Some countries have tried to legislate for work-life balance; France for example, banned the sending of work emails after 6pm. Gen Y however are more flexible, renowned for blurring the lines between work and play. As they take on more leadership roles, will their ethos radically change the concept of work and play, and how and when to communicate, especially if everyone has a smartphone that provides greater flexibility?
The real key to effective communication is knowing how your employees would like to be communicated with. Ask them; you will probably be surprised. Use employee engagement surveys to check that you are communicating to them in their preferred manner, and don’t be scared to communicate face-to-face; everyone likes to feel valued and what better way than by taking the time to explain your engagement approach than by sitting down and talking to them.