Know Your Generational Communication Styles.

In Martin Shaw, Our Authors, Talent & HR Technology, Talent Insight, Talent Research & Trends, Talent Trends, The Talent Consumer Experience by MartinLeave a Comment

As it’s the Key to Successful People Engagement.

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I’ve been in the Talent and Recruitment space since 1990. During that time I came to know that Change is the only Certainty – but even more profoundly,  five years ago I realised that as industry practitioners we now need to fundamentally understand the dynamics of communication between ourselves and the people (Talent Consumers) who meet the ever-changing needs of our client organisations.

Every white paper or detailed study we read indicates that this landscape of change is not going to slow down anytime soon. Kevin Wheeler tells us ‘Recruitment Is Marketing’ in a recent article, and I think he is on the right track.

The fact is, as we move into the new cycle through to 2020 and beyond, the workforce will evolve into a place the Baby-Boomer generation could not have imagined when they were just starting out in the big world of work. Technology acceleration, global economic power shifts, the impacts of events like 9-11 and 7-7 – and the mind-boggling levels of engagement we now have via the Internet and mobile devices – have totally transformed working life as we know it (which for me started as a 16-year-old apprentice engineer in September 1980.

Real Life Behaviour

This week I was on a train journey back from Cambridge and noticed some interesting people behaviours. While standing in a carriage I could see about 20 people sitting and a further five (including me) in the Isles standing – we were of mixed gens, but mostly Gen X and Y. Eleven passengers in this carriage were actively using a mobile device for a mix of communication and entertainment – some watching streaming or recorded TV/Movies, others playing music, one dude playing a Tetris like game and ‘the rest’ typing or web browsing. None were actually using their device to speak into. This snapshot of people behaviour continued and was observed for about 25 minutes.

The other observation on my hour-long journey came on my ‘change’ to the my second, homeward-bound train. There were no seating problems for me this time, with only a few people in the carriage. Two stops out of Cambridge and a young woman, who I guessed was aged between 17 to 20 years, sat nearby me as the train continued into London. My journey in her company was for about 50 minutes. First thing I noticed, she constantly used her iPhone throughout this period but never to speak with anyone. Next, it looked like she was participating in four or five instant message (IM) communication threads at once, while scanning social media in her browser.

This behaviour was constant for those 50 minutes; her two-thumb typing speed was quicker than my full keyboard typing skills. She was bouncing between IM chats and the web at a real pace. I am quite good with both the latest tech and Social Media platforms, but she was displaying an almost unconscious natural ability in using this mobile device to communicate and collaborate with her world. It got me thinking – “I just could not do that” and prompted today’s post.

As Talent Attraction, Acquisition and Conversion are all about knowing your target audience, what motivates them, how best to engage with them and know what types of proposition are needed to convert them to be an active participant in your Talent network (regardless of candidate status type) it will be increasingly important to know your Generation Communication Styles.


FT_15.01.15_lineWhy should we need to understand the distinct communication styles and mediums used by the generations we need to engage with?

In 2015, the “Millennial” generation is projected to surpass the outsized Baby-Boom generation as the nation’s largest living generation, according to US research from PEW Research Centre (This year, Millennials will overtake Baby-Boomers).

The US Census Bureau projects that the Millennial population was 74.8 million in 2014. By 2015, Millennials will increase in size to 75.3 million and become the biggest group.

It is generally seen that Millennials (Gen Y) belong to the cohort born between 1980 and early 2000 – which has some overlap with the Gen Z group. This group have been born and grown up with the technology revolution; the Internet birth, mobile phone domination, social globalisation and ‘the world travel’ gap-year!

Generation Z

Generation Z – are considered to be grouped from circa 1997, but most studies agree that a 2000 birth year should be the base starting point. They are now starting to enter the workforce as we mentioned in a recent post about managing the generational collision.

A study of 13 to 18 year olds in 2013 by ‘Wikia’ and ‘Ipsos MediaCT’ looked at the technology and media habits of today’s teenagers. Called Gen Z: The Limitless Generation.

This online survey of 1,200 teenagers indicated that this generation stay connected almost 24/7. They are happy to share information and engage on multiple open platforms.

This generation are using social platforms and collaborative technology far better than previous Gens and see technology as a right – and fundamental to their future success in life. They rapidly adapt useful tech/media and hastily drop tech/media that is not meeting their needs. Here is just a snippet of the stats the survey revealed.

  • All (100%) are connected for 1+ hours per day, but about half (46%) are connected 10+ hours per day.
  • Nine-in-ten of the Gen Z (93%) said they visit YouTube at least once a week, while 65% say they visit Facebook weekly and 38% visit numerous times per day. The other social media services visited each week are; Twitter (26%), Google+ (26%), and Instagram (17%).
  • Some contribute to share their knowledge; others just like to share their opinions with others. Among those who contribute to websites, 60% like to share their knowledge with others and 55% say they like to share their opinion with others. Only 31% of those who co in order to feel good about themselves, and even fewer contribute to show that they are smarter than others (14%). The top two reasons for contributing are; it is entertaining and fun (70%), and that they like to learn new things (64%).
  • Three-quarters (76%) agree that their experience with technology will help them reach their goals. Two-thirds (66%) agree that technology makes them feel like anything is possible. Less than half (43%) agree that they value the time when they’re unplugged.

So this was back in 2013 – I did not find anything more current, but it would be interesting to see a recent and similar survey to compare differences. I would imagine the views would be same with usage and sharing percentages showing higher activity, with maybe the addition of some new tech being listed as their most active platforms. We know Instagram and Snapchat is cool for this group at the moment. I bet someone comments when this is posted – “that is… so last week!”


These observations and stats are important to all of us. We must never think we have ‘got it cracked’. Being brutally honest, we are nowhere near the peak of communication and engagement performance in the Talent Consumer space.

Even those organisations we praise – those laden with awards for great efforts and innovation in this area – are still not as ‘on-message’ or providing the top class (Talent/Candidate) experiences consistently enough to match the audience needs.

It is never going to be easy. Perceptions and behaviours will always change – and be changing. But that is the environment we all operate in – so suck-it up, get used to it and make sure you start delivering what your audience wants. Do that and you will attract better, more-suited individuals to your business than your competition!

Top Image Credit: Managing Age Groups in the Workplace

Client Services Director @ Resource Central Ltd
As part of our team I help companies develop, build, implement and manage people engagement and experiences that deliver ‘ real value’ across the Talent and HR business needs of Talent Attraction, Talent Acquisition, Talent Engagement, Talent Community Retention and Employer Value.

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Client Services Director @ Resource Central Ltd
As part of our team I help companies develop, build, implement and manage people engagement and experiences that deliver ‘ real value’ across the Talent and HR business needs of Talent Attraction, Talent Acquisition, Talent Engagement, Talent Community Retention and Employer Value.