Addressing Communication through generations

By Avishal Seeth, Branch Head: Gauteng and Principal Consultant

During the course of last year, we prepared presentations and articles on the role that the Employer should be playing to ensure that they are able to get the best out of their employees to improve both employees’ lives and improve the profitability of business. All of the research indicated that employees need and want to be helped. Something else that we put forward, was that change is happening at a rate that is unprecedented in human history. This change, that includes longevity and improvements in technology, means that communication with stakeholders and specifically employees has become very difficult to achieve in the event that you choose to use a ‘one size fits all’ approach with regard to communication. Millennials refuse to read articles and anything that resembles an information overload (more than half a page of writing). So how do we go about keeping millennials engaged?

For us, the key is engaging with all employees in a meaningful manner. An integral part of our communication strategy is conducting surveys with all staff to obtain valuable information as to how we should communicate with them. Mailers and posters, while necessary, are simply not good enough anymore. The use of a communication portals, sms notifications, that include links to fund and general information, is becoming more and more of a requirement rather than fancy add-ons. As confirmed via research last year, millennials are now the biggest generation in the working population. Indeed, they are different and must be treated differently!

According to PEW Research Centre in the US, cell phone owners between the ages of 18 and 24 exchange an average of 109.5 messages on a normal day—that works out to more than 3,200 texts per month.

Research, specifically regarding millennials, from the same research centre shows that 83% of millennials open text messages within 90 seconds of receiving them. Millennials prefer text messages for the ability to communicate quickly and conveniently.

But what about the rest of the workforce? The Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) and Baby Boomers (born post World War 2 up to 1964)? I believe that we cannot underestimate this portion of the population and their ability to adapt and embrace the change that Millennials thrive on. For the past few years, longevity has been the hot topic in our industry. This extends beyond the ability of people to physically live longer but also means that our minds are healthier for far longer periods.

Let’s have a look at the social media phenomenon, Facebook:

Research by the Pew Research Centre in 2015 showed that, in America, 72% of all internet users used Facebook. The figure for adults aged 30-49 was 79%, and for adults aged 50-64 was 64%. Indeed, Facebook has become the domain of parents and grandparents worldwide with activity amongst parents and grandparents the highest of any other researched group of people. Five years ago, I can recall my parents not wanting anything to do with Facebook and today they are multiple times more active than I am! This trend is set to continue and not just with Facebook but on Twitter and Instagram as well. This has led to the younger generation having to ‘hide’ from parents on other social media such as Snapchat where 86% of users are below the age of 34. However, I am confident that this demographic too will change as Gen X gets more accustomed to other social media platforms.

The point is that while we implement solutions in terms of communication for Millennials, we must not underestimate the older generation’s ability to embrace new technology and the convenience and ease of reference that it brings about.

We are entering an inflection point in retirement funds. A time when decisions taken by a generation that believes in hard consistent work, investments in tangible assets and above all patience, will determine the outcome for a generation that believes in immediate gratification and invests in experiences rather than material items.

Member Communication Strategies

It is becoming more and more important for funds and employers to have a clear member communication strategy based on the profile of their members. Understanding the change in dynamic and how your communication to employees must be tailored to account for this, is going to be key to putting together a good communication strategy.

Disclaimer: This publication provides information and opinions of a general nature. It does not constitute advice and no part thereof should be relied upon without seeking appropriate professional advice.