How to communicate across generations


A few years ago, Joe Navarro was looking for a way to make himself more marketable in the job market. He thought getting another degree would help him do that, so he started looking into all the options. After some thought and consideration, Navarro enrolled at the University of La Verne in La Verne, Calif., and started working on a master’s degree in gerontology.

It’s not an obvious choice—many benefits brokers and agents obtain advanced marketing degrees, MBAs or even liberal arts degrees—but Navarro says it was the right call. He learned about far more than just the elderly. He learned about the process of aging, and that helps him think about ways to communicate with the different generations currently represented in the American workplace.

“The primary reason was I was looking for something to add to my scope of experience and education,” says Navarro, who’s now the marketing director for Warner-Pacific in Westlake Village, Calif. “A lot of people think studying the aging process is studying old people. But you also study what happens as you age from birth to death. By doing so, I was able to concentrate on all the different generations, which made me able to present on the four generations because of the deeper understanding I had.”

For the first time in history, industry sources say, four generations of employees are present  in the current work force—matures, baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y—and they all have different preferences when it comes to communication. A smart communications strategy that understands the four generations helps agents and brokers sign new clients and work with employees once they enroll in their company’s benefits plans.

“The one-size-fits-all approach does not fit at all anymore—it’s a whole different conversation with each generation,” Navarro says.

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