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In previous years, workplaces have managed between three and four different generations at one time. Skip forward to 2020 and there'll be five generations working side by side.

According to the World Health Organisation, men and women who are healthy at 60 will be physically capable of working until they are 74-77 years old. So, as we welcome the youngest employees into the workforce, it's worth considering that the newest generation might not be joining their parents or grandparents, they could be working alongside their great-grandparents too.

From Maturists (born 1924-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1960) and Generation X (born 1961-1980) to Generation Y (born 1981-1995) and Generation Z (born 1996 onwards), each group works in their own way and communication preferences vary. This is an important aspect for organisations to consider as it is essential that information and business policies reach all individuals effectively.

The importance of data security in particular has heightened more recently with research suggesting that 68% of large organisations provide on-going security awareness training to their staff. Keeping security front of mind supports this process and engaging employees with reminders can result in a workforce which is more aware and responsible.

So what are the most effective ways of communicating data security policies and principles to five different generations?

Five Generations

The workplace environment has changed significantly over the past 10 years. Flexible working and emerging technologies are two components particularly affecting the nature of a working environment.

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are the fastest growing workforce segment. Seeking freedom and flexibility in the workplace, this demographic will make up almost 80% of the workforce this year according to a report by PwC. Baby Boomers and Generation X, who have up until now accounted for approximately 70% of the workforce, value security and structure in their jobs over the freedom craved by Millennials.

Technology & Communication

Technology is now at the forefront of the workplace landscape and is subsequently changing the way in which we communicate. Millennials and Generation Z are keen on social media, blogging and texting to communicate. Maturists and Baby Boomers prefer more traditional forms of communication such as letters or the use of the telephone.

Data Security

Data security is crucial for employee's safety as well as that of the wider business. A report by PwC shows that in 2016, 72% of companies suffered staff related security breaches due to a poor understanding of security policies.

According to Forrester, Millennials are digitally integrated into the world at all times as opposed to Generation X who use technology purely for convenience. Millennials are much more concerned with convenience and productivity, with security being less of a priority. For this generation, leaked information is more tolerable and almost expected.

Accommodating the different ways in which each generation prefers to work is a difficult but important task. When communicating a data security policy, Baby Boomers and Generation X may prefer PowerPoint presentations or a handbook, whilst younger workers might gravitate towards more interactive, technology-based methods of learning and understanding.

In each case, managers and business owners should take the time to understand their employees and the most effective ways to communicate important work processes, in order to engage and ensure a full understanding from employees, regardless of their generation.

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