There are currently four generations in the workplace – four very different generations. So, engaging different generations is a new challenge for some communicators. The 20th century saw an unprecedented increase in technological advances and standards of living, and these trends continue into the 21st century. With the rate of change so fast, each generation shows marked differences in how they use and respond to technology, and how they communicate.
The name of the game in digital signage is engagement, and looking carefully at each group to understand their unique interests and influences lets you tailor how you present information to them for the most impact. Think about what they know, what they like and what they are likely to respond to. Here are our tips for engaging different generations in your organization:
Veterans – Born before 1945
If they are still working, Veterans are most likely in upper management, which means they control the purse strings and make key decisions. They are focused on controlling emergency situations and keeping people together.
- Famous people from this generation include Bob Dole, Bernie Sanders and Clint Eastwood.
- Influences include the Great Depression (often raised by parents who survived it), the New Deal, WWII and the Korean War, the rise of middle-class America, and the Space Race.
These people often grew up in difficult times followed by a period of prosperity. They tend to follow the rules, are disciplined and dedicated, have no problem with delayed reward and feel duty is more important than pleasure. They save for the future, respect authority and generally trust the government. They prefer a predictable hierarchy.
Veterans work hard and are task-oriented. Seniority is what gives them a sense of value. They will adapt to new technologies if they see them as having a long-term stabilizing effect, though they can be uncomfortable with change.
Digital Signage and Veterans
People from this generation didn’t grow up with technology everywhere, and they may be less accustomed to getting information from digital displays. Anything you can do to make your digital signage system friendlier and easier to see will go a long way to getting them interested in what you are showing.
- Keep your playlists shorter and slower – fewer messages displayed for longer. Stick to the 3×5 rule (3 lines of text with 5 words each, or 5 lines with 3 words each).
- High contrast images and backgrounds make reading your display easier. You may also want to increase your font size a bit. Still images are better than video, as are single or dual window layouts. Simpler is better and more approachable.
- News, weather and traffic feeds are a good idea, as it may draw them to a medium they are a little uncomfortable with, getting them to look at your other messages.
- Displaying things like work anniversaries, employee and management bios and official recognition for work done well are things that are likely to appeal to this group. Singling out someone for years of dedicated work makes them feel noticed and appreciated.
- Show meeting schedules and clear, easy-to-follow directions on how to get where they need to go.
- Give them “How to” messages with tips that help them to do things that are new or unfamiliar.
- Company announcements give everyone a sense of being a part of the team, as well as keeping your audience up to date on what’s happening.
- Consider ADA guidelines – screens should be placed lower, you’ll need Braille and other considerations make your digital signage friendlier for the visually-impaired. Don’t rely on audio – sounds can bounce around a space and add confusion where you want clarity.
Baby Boomers – Born 1946-1965
Boomers are one of the two most prevalent generations currently in the workforce, alongside Generation X. They want to express themselves and are very focused on work.
- Famous people include Mitt Romney, Bill Gates, and Meryl Streep.
- Influences include the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, the Sexual Revolution, and the Cold War.
This generation grew up in a time of prosperity and relative peace, yet many became the radicals of the 60s and 70s. They have a distrust of authority and question everything, are very team-oriented and believe in equal rights for everyone, are very involved and optimistic, and often choose personal gratification over long-term goals. They prefer a “flat” organizational hierarchy.
Boomers invented the 50-hour work week and can be “workaholics”. They believe that experience creates value, and have a high work ethic. Technology is something to acquire if it is useful.
Digital Signage and Boomers
Boomers are all about knowing what’s happening and why, and are very work-focused.
- You can speed up your playlists – a few more items, displayed for shorter times. Adding video and animations will also appeal to this group.
- Boomers like to feel like they are in the know and understand where they are heading, so post messages with your company’s mission statement and goals, as well as progress toward those goals.
- Recognize teams for hitting targets – make sure to include everyone who contributed.
- Productivity stats and safety stats let them know that management is paying attention to how they are doing.
- Health tips and benefits announcements are likely to appeal to this generation.
- Community announcements, fundraisers, blood drives and family days are sure to get noticed by this generation, especially anything that lets them combine work with family and friends.
Generation X – Born 1966-1985
Flexibility is key for Xers, and things that let them do things better are appealing to them. This is a generation that likes to know things, and have a broad view. They are the largest part of the workforce, they need honest feedback and are about developing skills, ideas and relationships.
- Famous people include Matt Damon, J. K. Rowling and Elon Musk.
- Influences include Watergate, the energy crisis, dual income families and single parents, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Y2K.
This generation is the first to have a lower standard of living than their parents, and have grown up in an environment that fosters deep distrust of authority. They seek balance as well as diversity, have a strong entrepreneurial streak, have very high expectations for their jobs, are informal and skeptical, tend to think globally, and are technologically literate. They are all about efficiency and having access to management and information. They prefer a more flexible organizational structure.
Xers are self-reliant and seek to streamline tasks and workflows. They often receive a sense of value from merit and recognition, yet continually test authority. They tend to change jobs more frequently than earlier generations, looking at each job as the acquisition of skills and contacts. Casual work environments suite them, which they see as contributing to higher productivity. They assimilate technology quickly, especially if it saves them time.
Digital Signage and Xers
Xers want the big picture, but they also want specifics. These are the people who first grew up watching Sesame Street and are comfortable getting their information in many different forms, so multi-window layouts and ticker feeds are appealing to them.
- Generation Xers find transparency to be important, so post quarterly performance reviews and financial information so they know what’s happening in the company.
- Go further and give them company strategies and tactics, as well as the reasoning behind them.
- Post messages on best practices and policies, and keep your audience up to date on any changes that have been made in the company.
- Invite feedback and participation by letting your Xers submit messages. This makes them part of the process. You can also include ROI triggers to get their feedback on other announcements.
- Balance your work announcements with lifestyle messages. For Xers, their life outside of work is just as important as the work itself.
- A linked series of messages that tells a story over time is something that would appeal to this generation.
- This is the Web generation – show webpages on your displays, and drive digital signage messages to your website for measurable interaction.
- Touch and interactive displays have become expected by this generation – think about adding some around your facility.
Millennials – Born 1986-2005
These folks have recently entered the workforce, or are still in school (where they are by far the dominant demographic). They are all about connections, common interests and constant feedback.
- Famous people include Britney Spears, Mark Zuckerberg and Serena Williams.
- Influences include the World Wide Web, the Tech Boom, mobile phones and social media, and 9/11.
As children, Millennials were kept extremely busy (being the first generation of children with schedules), are very focused on achievement and recognition, combine a high sense of morality with a deep love of fun, are extremely competitive while remaining highly social, consider themselves realists, and are extremely techno savvy. They prefer collaborative environments that are achievement-oriented and foster creativity.
Millennials are multi-taskers who believe that contributing is the most important thing they do. Their focus is beyond just a work/life balance, and also includes community and self-development. Training is important to them, and they are goal-focused. They are totally integrated with technology, and cannot conceive of doing things “the old-fashioned way”. This reliance on technology makes them expect and need almost continuous feedback.
Digital Signage and Millennials
Millennials have grown up with the internet and mobile devices, and are not only comfortable with digitally presented information – they expect it. They are unhappy with push messages (like email) and like their information to be interactive.
- This generation gets bored or distracted easily, so keep your playlist peppy with lots of animations and videos, more items that are swapped out more frequently, and multi-screen layouts. You almost cannot overload Millennials with too much information.
- Extend your digital signage to include smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices. If they can take it with them, they are more likely to look at it and engage with it.
- Bring in social media feeds, YouTube videos and other popular online infotainment feeds. Integrate the sources they already use with your digital signage network.
- Birthdays, shout outs, and other forms of micro recognition reinforces their online presence outside of the workplace or school, where they are continually checking to see how they are being perceived on social networks.
- Short videos or messages that target elements of training are appreciated – provided they are concise and to the point.
- Interactive signage is something this generation appreciates, and pushing wayfinding signage content with directions and maps to their mobile devices using geofences and beacons makes this even more appealing.
- Foster competition and engagement with contests and competitions. Award prizes to individuals as well as teams.
- Add in gamification elements to foster community and interest. For example, a FitBit contest where teams compete to have to highest number of steps a week.
- Funny memes and irreverent humor go a long way with Millennials. Anything that generates buzz has a chance of “going viral” through your audience.
Generation Z (Zoomers, iGen) – Born 1995-2012
Many have called this generation the first true “digital natives” since they’ve never really known a world without the internet, mobile computing and social media. This does not necessarily mean they are all digitally literate, however. Overall, they are very well educated and empathetic, but also quite stressed and prone to depression. They are the most ethnically diverse, cosmopolitan and international generation in history.
- Famous people include Billy Eilish, Greta Thunberg, BTS, XXXTentacion and MrBeast
- Influences include social networking, the Great Recession, climate change, the War on Terror, #MeToo, #BlackLivesMatter
This generation is growing up in a time of turbulence and instability combined with a hopeful future outlook. They see a world with many difficulties that can, perhaps, be overcome, but they do not see the will to make the necessary changes in the older generations. As they come into their own, they seem determined to do what the feel needs to be done. Theya re almost constantly connected to other people via the web, in a sort of peer-reviewed feedback loop. This same connectivity, however, is seen as a toll for effective change.
Their pragmatic natures make them focus on real-world solutions, and they insist on authenticity from their employers as well as their peers. They have an entrepreneurial bent and value the ability to express themselves. They also tend to be quite vocal in both their support for and commendation of things in their environment.
Digital Signage and Gen Z
Gen Z can handle a lot of information quickly, on multiple channels. Basically, everything you do for Millennials, you can do for Gen Zers, but even more so.
- You almost can’t overwhelm this cohort with too much information.
- Vary your methods of communication to keep things interesting – remember that you’re competing with the entire internet for their attention.
- Enable communications to be transferred to mobile devices, so they can access things in their own time (with QR codes, short URLs, etc.).
- Wellbeing and safety messages will be greatly appreciated, as well any good works done outside the organization.
- Strive for an authentic tone of voice, and don’t make promises you can’t keep – walk your talk.
- Because they’re so social, community and team-building messaging will be well received.
- Recognition and Kudos are important to a generation that is constantly be evaluated by others in their day-to-day lives.
Think about who your audience is and what appeals to them. Or vary what you display and how you display it if you have a multi-generational audience. They will engage and respond positively to what you have to say.
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