Feb. 1, 2018

With employees of different background and age groups in the workplace, it’s imperative in today’s fast-paced environment that professionals learn to work with others who may have different backgrounds, as well as respect each other’s varied experiences.

And while technological advances may revolutionize how we communicate, characteristics such as patience, respect and understanding will always be important.

“I think that the biggest challenge is to determine up-front how people want to communicate, depending on the urgency of the communication. Some people let emails pile up, and then go through them periodically to answer them. Some people only respond to text messages. Some people want a phone call if it is urgent,” said Scott Moore, CAM. Moore, a former flight department manager and NBAA board member, is now a leadership advisor at Moore Life Leadership.

“It is important for people of all generations to clarify which form of communication works best for others in the workplace, in order to help everyone to communicate effectively,” he added.

Joe Barber, director of aircraft management with Clay Lacy Aviation, stressed the importance of compromise in communication.

“The mature generations communicate in a tried-and-true fashion that allows their intuition and judgement to work best. With the younger generations, communication occurs faster, in smaller bits and allows for more productivity,” he said, adding both groups need to learn from the other.

Generational Shift in Flight Department Communication

As Baby Boomers retire, and more Millennials enter the workforce, that shift in communication styles could become more pronounced.

“We are in the midst of a drastic shift in the way we communicate. Particularly in our industry, where it is our job to be flexible and on-the-ball enough to change destinations, fuel uplifts, catering orders, hotel and car rental reservations at a moment’s notice,” noted Tyler Newman, an aircraft scheduler with Sedgwick Claims Management Services.

“I have seen an unprecedented amount of trust being placed in Millennials throughout this shift due to their adaptability and understanding of these new technologies,” Newman added. “It’s not to say anyone of the Baby Boomer generation can’t incorporate these new methods of communication. Millennials have grown and matured as this technology has grown and matured into what it is today, which gives us a deeper insight and understanding.”

Moore said he thinks Millennials are leading the way when it comes to communication, for example, crediting a younger associate with teaching him about Twitter. “The ‘digitally native’ members of our workforce help the older members of the organization learn new, more effective means of communication,” he said.

Barber noted that in business aviation, knowledge of the industry is often learned over time, and more needs to be done to pass that knowledge along to the next generation.

“NBAA and its members need to continue supporting mentoring, internships and educational forums,” he said. “I Google searched: ‘How many Baby Boomers retired?’ The result is that 10,000 retire each day from 2010-2029. We are right in the middle of that transition.”

Advice for Cross-Generational Communications

For all the dependence on technology in the workplace, face-to-face communication is still key, experts said.

“I don’t care how advanced our methods of communication become, we will never be able to replace the strength, confidence and assurance communicated through a firm handshake and looking your colleagues in the eye,” said Newman.

Moore added that face-to-face communication often reduces the chance of miscommunication because non-verbal cues and tone of voice clarify and reinforce one’s message, “particularly in an environment where there may be confrontation or disagreement.”

“Communication is the backbone of any organization,” concluded Barber. “It’s a different world today than it was when our leaders joined the workforce. The younger generation needs to learn from the experienced employees, and the experienced employees need to lay a roadmap for succession with the younger generation.”

Barber, Moore and Newman will expand upon these ideas during an education session on cross-generational communication taking place at 8:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 9 at the 2018 NBAA Schedulers & Dispatchers Conference (SDC2018). Learn more about SDC018.