Communicating With Millenials
Millennials have higher expectations than other generations, but they want many of the same things as previous generations. Fred Herzberg talked about the need for increased flexibility in the workplace, and a better work–life balance in the 1960’s when a lot of younger baby boomers were entering the workforce. (HBR 1968) But Millennials have grown up in a different environment and as a result, have different needs than their older colleagues, supervisors and managers. Here are some tips for managing and developing this generation of Millennials:
1. Give them more positive feedback.
Millennials are used to being the center of things and demand more attention. They are also used to having lots of encouragement with compliments for steps in the right direction. Recognition is hugely important. This will require you to take more time with millennials, engaging them on a regular basis and getting to know them and letting them get to know you. Ask them for their ideas frequently. The more you establish a relationship of trust with them, the better they will perform. To quote Herzberg again, “If you want to motivate people you need to treat people the way they are and not the way you want them to be.” Save yourself a lot of trouble and expense and learn how to engage and manage them accordingly.
2. Spend more time coaching and mentoring.
Millennials often have more fragile self-confidence and that’s why they need continuous positive reinforcement until they can develop greater self-confidence through actual accomplishment. Like most young people, they feel unique and believe they have special needs, and therefore want communications to be extremely personalized and relevant. That does not mean that you do not hold Millennials accountable however.
3. Sell them on frequent lateral job assignments.
Millennials often believe they should be promoted more quickly than is realistic. Sell them on the importance of learning new skills with projects that attract their interest. Frequent lateral job assignments can provide important recognition that they are progressing in their field and in the organization. Let them know you are interested in helping them grow in their careers.
4. Tie their achievements to your business outcomes.
A 2015 Gallup Poll found that only 28.9% of millennials say that they are engaged at work. This is a recipe for turnover if allowed to continue. This requires selling them on the important tasks required to service customers and grow the business. Tasks become interesting to the employee when they are responsible for achieving outcomes that are valued by “customers” and/or are tied directly to the success of the company. Ask them for their ideas while also helping them to understand the organization’s business strategy.
5. Create flexible work schedules and work-from-home options.
Increasingly Millennials (and all workers) want increased flexibility in the workplace. Create flexible work schedules, and work-from-home options, with job appraisals based on specific outcomes and deliverables. If your company does not offer this flexibility you are falling behind in your ability to attract the millennial workforce. Today’s technology allows working from home in a seamless manner for many jobs. Make the focus on getting the work done, while retaining the importance of making team meetings and being available to communicate with colleagues and customers.
6. Use visuals or bullet points when communicating.
Communication in today’s internet age is different and this difference is what millennials have grown up with. It’s how they communicate. They are visual thinkers and learners, reflecting the influence of Facebook and Instagram and other social media. To get their attention, give them something that they want to share, making it visual whenever possible. Tell a story that gets their attention. Personalize their communications and make it interesting. When you write, make it easily understood and compatible with today’s short attention span. Use bullet points with no more than three points to focus on.
7. Rely more on email and texting and embrace all devices.
Remember that “the Medium is the Message”. While face-to-face meetings and conference calls are still important, emails and texting are more often preferred by Millennials. Phone calls are often viewed negatively, especially when the millennial employees are not in the office. During meetings, do not expect them to put away their smart phones and other digital devices. They are now physically attached and feel anxious when they are without them.
Yes, it is a “brave new world” culture. Yet, young people of every generation have shared some of these characteristics. As the once-younger baby boomer generation ages, the Millennials will be the new leadership team. We need to prepare ourselves for this cultural shift as our businesses and retirement will be dependent on the success of the Millennial generation.
There are about 80 million millennials and half of them are already in the workforce. The rest will be arriving within the decade and will eventually make up the majority of workers. This is your labor pool and you need to learn how to work with them.