Communicate to Connect: Why we Need to Listen to Younger Generations

A mentor is typically someone considered an expert in a field, who can provide guidance to others less experienced in that same field. This typically means that mentors are older than their mentees. There is nothing wrong with this model. 71% of Fortune 500 companies have mentoring programs¹ and of those with a mentor, 97% say they are valuable². To say “I have a mentor” makes you five times more likely to be promoted than someone who doesn’t³.

Mentoring can sometimes be flipped into ‘reverse mentoring’. This is where a younger generation mentor an older one. This was an approach successfully applied in the late 1990s by Jack Welch at GE to teach senior executives about the internet⁴.

Today’s younger generations can teach us so much about communication. Call it a form of reverse mentoring if necessary, but we should be listening to them. For example, there is a general acceptance that millennials, the first generation to have grown up with the internet, communicate differently to their parents and grandparents – Gen X and the Baby Boomers. Now forming a significant portion of the global workforce, they seek different things, such as community, co-creation and the opportunity to make a difference to the world. They are more to the point and more accepting of differences than previous generations in the workplace.

And their children – the Gen Z ‘Zoomers’, who were born into an already wired world, are different again. They multitask on a whole different level, and that sometimes can look to parents like they are distracted and have very short attention spans. But they can actually pay attention and text at the same time⁵.

These two generations communicate in bite-sized and simple ways. They don’t see things in isolation, but rather have a multi-channel view. And they crave connection and meaning in a world they see as no bigger than the mobile phone in their hands.

We have to listen to our younger generations and learn more how they like to communicate to connect, then apply what we hear into today’s schools and workplaces. How are you listening to them?

Written by Karen Dempster and Justin Robbins

Karen Dempster and Justin Robbins founded Fit2Communicate in 2015. They are highly experienced communication experts, Fellows of the Institute of Internal Communications and certified DISC personality profile practitioners, who are passionate about making a difference for future generations, through helping schools to communicate. Several of their unique school communication models featured in their first book, released in 2017, called “How to build communication success in your school”. A follow up book, called “The Four Pillars of Parental Engagement” is due to be released in August 2021. Prior to 2015, Karen spent 20 years in marketing and communication roles, while Justin spent 15 years working in corporate communications around the globe. Karen holds a postgraduate diploma in marketing and is also a professional photographer. Justin holds a postgraduate diploma in internal communication and is also a British Triathlon level 3 coach. Karen lives in Surrey with her husband, son and collection of pets. Justin lives in Wiltshire with his wife, two children and chocolate Labrador.