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Baby talk helps bridge generation gaps.

Baby talk helps bridge generation gaps

Today the employee is recognized as the essence of the company, not just a cog in its machinery. And management is striving to involve employees in the operation of the organization and in its success.

Communication is a two-way process at the heart of employee involvement and, consequently, at the heart of organizational objectives. The work place of the rapidly advancing future needs to become a partnership environment of workers who use their talents to make a difference and share the rewards of successful efforts.

Easy to say - but achieving these organizational goals with the diverse work force we have is the real challenge for communicators.

Most human resource managers can recite the Workforce 2000 business issues by heart because they are already affecting human resource strategies. But, as a communicator, it's likely you have not been exposed to the issues that will affect your organizational role as well:

* National labor shortages

* Skills gaps

* Cultural diversity

* Aging work force

* Influx of women

* Changing worker values

They are all important issues to you as a communicator, but the most important of all is "changing worker values" and your understanding of the broad spectrum of values represented in your company's work force.

As we studied the changing values of workers during Towers Perrin's Workforce 2000 research, we noticed a distinct difference among workers by age group in their communication preferences - workers have distinct media preferences linked to the media they grew up with. We classified them as Radio Babies, TV Babies and Computer Babies. The statistics provide a profile of each work force segment:


BIRTH DATES: 1961-1979 ROLE MODEL: Steve Jobs MOST INFLUENTIAL HISTORICAL EVENT: Watergate HOBBIES: Saving the Earth (e.g. recycling, boycotting), mountain biking, rock climbing, shooting billiards CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BOSS: None - too cool to kowtow to the big cheese WORKDAY LUNCH: Frozen yogurt with fruit, nuts, sprinkles and a Soho soda ETHICAL BOUNDARIES: Depends - this group is cynical and realistic PRIME MOTIVATORS: Rewarding challenges APPROACH USED TO ASK FOR A RAISE: "I need it, I want it, I deserve it, and if I don't get it, I'm outta here."


BIRTH DATES: 1943-1960 ROLE MODEL: John F. Kennedy MOST INFLUENTIAL HISTORICAL EVENT: The Vietnam War HOBBIES: Going to Little League games, working out at the gym, renting videos, fly-fishing CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BOSS: Mont Blanc pen or Tiffany paperweight WORKDAY LUNCH: Grilled mahi mahi with baby field greens and a San Pellegrino ETHICAL BOUNDARIES: Whatever's politically correct - they're still idealistic, turning moralistic PRIME MOTIVATORS: Money, flextime APPROACH USED TO ASK FOR A RAISE: Steps 1 to 20 from "How to Land the Raise You Deserve"


BIRTH DATES: 1925-1942 ROLE MODEL: John Wayne MOST INFLUENTIAL HISTORICAL EVENT: The Great Depression HOBBIES: Bridge, golf, deep-sea fishing, fixing things around the house CHRISTMAS GIFT TO BOSS: Bottle of scotch WORKDAY LUNCH: Steak, potato, salad with Russian dressing and red wine ETHICAL BOUNDARIES: What Mom and Dad always said PRIME MOTIVATORS: Status, security APPROACH USED TO ASK FOR A RAISE: A monologue on the importance of seniority and loyal service Here are some of the characteristics of each group's profile:
Competition Teamwork Autonomy
Live to work Personal Work to live
Cash Compensation Satisfaction
Assembly line Mainframes PCs
Career Career Career
employment development choices
Overtime Flextime Flexplace
Information Feedback Involvement
25% of 50% of 25% of
Work force Work force Work force
Managers Work force Labor pool

Not surprisingly, each group had distinct media preferences:
Print Video Interactive
Mass meetings Small group One-on-one
Q&A Listening Involvement
Compliance Support Contribution

As business goals and objectives have changed, the hot buttons for business today have become customer satisfaction, quality products, innovation, top performance, and commitment.

Apple Chairman John Sculley was quoted when asked about his expectations of his employees in achieving organizational goals:

"You are asked to pour a part of yourself into the success of the company. The individual is asked for a greater commitment than in the days when he or she was simply a cog in the wheel of a systematized corporation. I'm not asking for open-ended loyalty - I'm asking people who are at Apple to buy into the vision of the company while they are here."

As we struggle to meet our organization's business objectives, we find that we need to understand the mindset of the workers we rely on to carry out the company mission. Worker motivations, values, expectations and commitment to the organization also vary by age group.

The challenge you have is to reach all employees with effective media and methods to help them achieve the organization's goals, as well as their own individuals goals. To do this, you'll need to understand each group's orientation.

Radio Babies

As we look across the work force today, we find older workers, Radio Babies born between 1925-1942, in top management positions. These workers are the career loyalists who thrive on competition and live to work. They still rely on printed materials and prefer large group meetings with the opportunity to ask questions and will comply with organizational directives.

TV Babies

Our TV Baby Boomers, born between 1943-1960, are the majority of the work force. The largest segment of U.S. population in history, this group grew up with television and maintains a preference for very visual information as education and entertainment. With a tendency toward small group meetings and a preference for listening for organizational needs they can support, the baby boomers continue to seek personal growth in their work and job satisfaction through meaningful experiences.

Computer Babies

Now, Computer Babies are setting the pace for our future work force. They've grown up with video games and the interactivity of computers. They like one-on-one activities and prefer to relate to management that way. They like to be involved, preferably with those in control or at the top so the value of their individual contribution can be recognized and rewarded. They are very close to the employee Sculley described above - they are mobile, savvy, skilled and intend to take their skills to the organization that will give them the most challenging opportunities and pay them well. As a communicator, your challenge is to develop methods and use appropriate media to help management make the most of its human resources. Strategies include reward and recognition programs to acknowledge organizational appreciation and support for individual contributions. Orientation programs can be designed to reinforce that value and worth of the employee to the organization. Programs to help employees share their ideas contribute to involving employees in ways that use the talent and innovation business must tap to stay competitive.

A mix of media and methods orchestrated by a strategy to meet business goals and objectives can address each individual groups' communication preferences. Understanding the individual preferences of the diverse age groups in the organization can help you manage the messages managers have for employees.

A Radio Baby CEO may need assistance in communicating effectively to a Computer Baby work force - print materials may not elicit the employee involvement desired.

The challenge is to keep the business messages consistent across all age groups, and package them in ways with which employees are comfortable, to achieve the widest acceptance, support and results.

We're in an age of organizational redefinition - business strategies, products and services, worker values, and management approaches have all become significant communication issues and challenges. The role of the organizational communicator is being redefined - you play an essential role in achieving organizational objectives by involving employees through effective communication in using their talents to make a difference and in helping organizations make the most of their human resources.

M. Colette Nies is TPF&C's west region practice coordinator and Los Angeles' communication unit leader.
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:classification of employees according to their communication preferences
Author:Nies, M. Colette
Publication:Communication World
Date:Dec 1, 1991
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