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Do Generation Based Grassroots Communication Tactics Matter?

One of the questions that I invariably hear at each and every gathering of government relations professionals is, “How do I reach Generation X? How about Generation Y? How about the Millenials? How about the Boomers?” And on it goes.

Dr. Rhoads and I have always responded that while each generation likes to think that the evolutionary process has made their brains different than those 20 years older than them, evolutionary psychology shows that human psychology has not changed since it’s been scientifically examined. While the vehicles for the outreach may be different based on age, isn’t good outreach good outreach regardless of one’s age?

Our belief is that good communication and good persuasion are effective no matter how old someone is – after all, everybody wants recognition, they want credit for their ideas, they want input into how they do their work (paid or volunteer) they want autonomy, they want to know how their work (paid or volunteer) makes a difference, and they want to make their own decisions. Finally some common sense on this obsession from blogger Jessica Stillman. She took on common management advice on how to talk to Traditionalists, Gen Y, Boomers, etc. Stillman took a list of specific communication tips for those audiences and switched those tips into different categories by sticking some of the “Boomer” tips into the “Gen X”list. Here is a selection of some of those tips:

1. Empower them to make their own decisions.

2. Allow them to experiment with their jobs.

3. Have an open door policy in which you are available for team members to ask questions and receive guidance.

4. Give recognition whenever possible.

5. Do not block their path to decision makers.

6. In the event of a crisis, do not shut them out.

7. Use technology to make team meetings easier.

8. Talk to them about their long term plans.

All those tips sound pretty reasonable, right? You probably would not be shocked if that list was promoted as tips on good workplace communications with a title something like “Eight Ways to Communicate Better.”

Stillman reveals that answers #1 and #8 are for Traditionalists, #2 and #4 for Boomers, #5 and #7 for Gen X, #3 and #6 for Gen Y.

Isn’t good communication just good communication no matter how old you are?

The bottom line: rather than looking for the silver bullet to reach certain age groups, how about consistently practicing solid, time tested communication tactics? Give volunteers some autonomy and recognition and you should be just fine.

Read it and reap: “Are Age Based Communication Strategies Bunk?” http://www.bnet.com/blog/entry-level/are-age-based-communication-strategies-bunk/2660