In a recent McKnight Kurland roundtable discussion with global brand CMOs, the discussion topic of ‘Voice of the Customer’ took a turn toward the question of how we as marketers can connect with different generations. After all, if we are to listen and engage (and be trusted) we must know where to listen and how to converse. So we asked one of our staff to add some depth to this conversation and here it is – from Kathy, a gen-Yer.
Generation Y. Also known as Generation Next and Echo Boomers. We are heavily influenced by MTV, most affected by the financial crisis, and Mark Zuckerberg is our friend. We are characterized and associated mostly with communications, media and digital technology. And we also have a tough act to follow—the Millenials, X’ers, Boomers and Traditionalists, generations with a voice, unique contributions to society and iconic figures in every walk of life.
Yet here we are in 2012, witnessing man’s greatest achievement, technology, right before our very eyes and fingertips, only to find it has actually created a gap in our connections. According to Forbes, 80% of Fortune 500 executives find communication across generations to be the most challenging issue in the workplace. We are more connected than ever before, yet the way we perceive and use technology has created a gap in the way we communicate.
It is no surprise that constant evolving technology has had a major impact on how each generation reacts to their environment. The chart below demonstrates how each generation, through time and technology, prefers communication. It is no wonder that Traditionalist may view using tablets or phones during a meeting rude, while Millenials find pen and paper inefficient and a waste of time.
The gap seems to stem from personal interaction, or lack of, that has been replaced by technology such as social networking. According to Eric Savitz, missing expressive behaviors such as interpreting tone of voice, pauses, in-person nonverbal cues, Millenials may lack the skills necessary for interpreting feelings, attitudes, reactions and judgments. With that said, Millenials have created an alternative, replacing essential skills for that of technology that allows us to think fast and multi-task with a click of a button (4 out of 5 senses not needed).
My placement in the grand scheme of things has allowed me to appreciate the hard working ethics of Traditionalists and tech savvy Millenials who strive to create new solutions. I think the lesson is that one must exist with the other. It is not about right or wrong. Technology is a way of life. Embrace it and use it—especially as marketers—the options are almost limitless. And, they’ll change again tomorrow. So text your next meeting, “Like” a company status and don’t forget to say thank you in person.