One of my favourite quotes regarding employees is still that of an American oil-well fire fighter, Red Adair who hit the nail on the head when he said, “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.”


How do you turn your business into a professional company that clients invest in, instead of hiring family or friends fresh out of varsity?

When speaking at a conference recently, about the importance of having a social media policy, I bumped into Guy Parton. He is the founder and Director of Hippocampus, the “Design-Gineers” who solve problems using the science of creativity. We chatted about the topic and he put it very succinctly—you wouldn’t have a family member represent your company in front of a jam-packed auditorium, so why get them to represent you on social media where the audience is even bigger?

Don’t get me wrong, I love working with young people and giving them an opportunity to gain experience and cut their teeth in the research and reputation industry. It’s an absolute thrill to challenge them to do something new and to see how they tackle it and grow from the experience. What is important is getting the right fit, having a rigorous interview process as well as encouraging a culture of learning and continuous growth.

We are always looking for ways to improve and for talented individuals to join our team. Robin Sharma, author and leadership speaker, says you can’t have an A-level company with C-level performers. Everyone on our team is driven and ambitious with a track record of being an A-player. To add someone to the mix who is lacklustre just does not work. Finding these A-players is quite a process, however, really worth the journey.

Apart from cementing down your key values and encouraging continuous training and learning, the third key element that is vital to building your company’s culture is communication. Engaging with employees may be more challenging than ever before. For the first time in the history of the business world, we have at least three generations that are all working together, the Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y (also known as Millennials). All these groups require different ways through which to be engaged. Navigating through these different characteristics, values, and attitudes toward work, based on each generation’s life experiences can become a bit like walking through a minefield. Getting it right and aligning your key messages internally is intrinsic to building a solid reputation.

Different communication strategies are vital to successfully integrating the multigenerational workforce. Why is this important for your reputation?

Employees play a vital role in the reputation of an organisation. Very often, this is where the reputation of an organisation starts, as their daily perceptions and interactions become the reality for external stakeholders.

In addition to taking an inside-out approach to aligning internal beliefs and behaviours to external perceptions, organisations need to understand that the way in which they communicate with a Baby Boomer is quite different to that of a Millennial. It is important to note that there is no right or wrong way of communicating, it’s about being able to adapt to what is most effective.

The key is to take advantage of the differences in values and expectations of each generation. While it is important not to follow blanket stereotypes, it does, however, help to have a broad overview of each generation. This will help with understanding and tolerating each other.

Baby Boomers,born between 1943 and 1960 prefer direct interaction, be it in a meeting, strategy session or phone call as means of communicating.

Generation X, born between 1965 and 1977 really don’t enjoy networking. They are generally the first people to take out their laptops at a meeting, using it as a shield between them and other people. This generation naturally questions authority figures and is responsible for creating the work/life balance concept. Send them a text or email so that they can respond when it fits into their timetable, this speaks to their quest and need for work/life balance.

Generation Y or Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, are the technology whiz kids who always ask ‘why?’. They are a lot more socially conscious and generally don’t mind engaging and doing things if the ‘why?’ is explained to them. They are among the most resilient in navigating change while deepening their appreciation for diversity and inclusion.They prefer to communicate through platforms such as email, Instant Messaging (IM), blogs and text messages, rather than over the phone or face to face.

Did you know that there is a new definition to the above list? ”Boomerangs”lend influence. This is the label for baby boomers who retire and then go back to work for their same firm part-time, maybe just a day a week. In this way, they impart their knowledge and mentor the new generations coming through the doors by sharing their wealth of experience.

When it comes to improving your internal communication, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, what is needed is flexibility and an understanding of how best to get your message across. It’s also about tolerance for each other and upskilling the team in new ways of communicating and helping them to understand each other. That’s why I always return to the importance of research; you may think that your team prefers to communicate in one way but if you don’t ask, you won’t know. It might really be worth doing a quick poll to find out what employees’ communication preferences are and how often you should communicate—it’s all about finding that happy median.

To wrap up, keep in mind that the workforce currently consists of different generations with whom you need to communicate. Align your communication to the overall business values and objectives using the most appropriate channels of communication per generation. Facilitate mentoring between employees of different ages to encourage more understanding and multigenerational engagement. Employees like to have a voice and to be heard; so facilitate opportunities for feedback through different forums.

Now that you’ve figured out what communication style and frequency your employees prefer, it’s also important to get to understand your other stakeholders’ preferences too. 

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