Whether you’re training a new employee in your department to take on HR investigations or interviewing an employee, it’s important to know how they communicate.  People who were born after 1980 represent a significant portion of the workplace today and their communication preferences and capabilities are different than those of other generations.

This is the digital-first generation – 74% percent of people 18-34 in the US use (non-phone) digital communication more than in-person communication.  Given the choice to keep only their phone or messaging app on their smart-phones, 73% would ditch the ability to call someone!

Some of this preference may be hard-wired.  Because digital communication was such a significant part of their early lives, their brains have been conditioned to receiving information quickly, without having to rely on non-verbal contextual clues for further information.  While this means the context of face-to-face interaction is lost, they can communicate with a greater number of people in less time, which is highly valued by younger people.  As a consequence, non-verbal information is not valued as much by Millennials as Baby Boomers, and they do not understand it as well.

Unfortunately, this set of communication preferences leads to challenges in very detail-specific one-on-one environments.  Because non-verbal communication is primarily associated with emotion, there can be misunderstandings about the intent of communication between Baby Boomer (who value face-to-face communication highly) and Millennial employees.  This may lead to accusations of disrespect or condescension that are unfounded.

It can also make HR investigations difficult.  Younger investigators may require additional training on picking up cues during interviews, and subjects and witnesses may not perform well in an interview setting.  Unfortunately, face-to-face communication isn’t taught or graded in the vast majority of academic classes, meaning many people make it to the workplace technically prepared but weak in communication skills.

Of course, it’s not fair to paint an entire generation with a single brush; many Millennials value face-to-face communication, and are highly proficient in non-verbal communication.  But with the statistics trending in the opposite direction, communication challenges will likely become a larger and larger problem in workplaces across the country.

To learn how CMTS:HR can help your organization close complaints and investigations more quickly, call us at 919-600-5102 or email us at Team_CMTSHR@CMTSHR.com.