This blog is presented by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center. 

In this blog, the author shares a few communication approaches that can help engage millennials better.

The ongoing debate on engaging millennials now probably has an outcome. The verdict – millennials are just like every other generation1. When we are younger, we value our freedom and space. As we grow older, we become more circumspect about how we conduct ourselves. This applies to all generations. Most research focus on ‘managing’ millennials and their differences. However, there is little attention paid to approaches to communicate ‘with’ this generation.

By 2020, 50% of the world’s workforce2 will consist of millennials. Undoubtedly, with the world of work and workplaces evolving and newer technologies more appealing to the younger generation, there are of course better and simpler ways to communicate. Not just for millennials, but for all generations. Ultimately, it is about preferences and less about the mind-sets of generations. For example, millennials give importance to job security3, unlike otherwise perceived. Also, millennials are working hard4, if not harder than most – again overruling another myth about the generation. Lastly, just 3% of millennials5 are part of the gig economy unlike believed otherwise.

Yes, millennials are more comfortable with current technologies. They are the ‘Facebook’ generation for a good reason. They prefer real-time communication (more often texting) and are keen to pick up the ability present effectively6 and visualize data well. That doesn’t mean they need to be treated with kid gloves. They have a mind of their own and are more often than not, interested to be digital entrepreneurs.

It is helpful however to consider the expectations of this growing demographic group who will become the largest contributor to the world’s workforce7. Born between 1980 and 2000, this group is already the biggest generation in the United States8, even more than Baby Boomers. Due to their varied experiences, as compared to previous generations, millennials also are conscious about health and wellness – including eating wise and exercising regularly; quite unlike the perceptions we hear of their behaviours.  In fact, they prefer to work for organizations that have a social conscience, one of the top reasons considered while selecting a workplace.

So how do we communicate effectively with this generation?

  • Proactive and transparent communication works best: While this approach will probably work for any generation, millennials appreciate it most. With communication vying for attention and distractions galore at the workplace, staying ahead of the curve can help organizations keep their staff engaged. Millennials prefer access to communication and open and honest communication serves well9. Also, keeping communication simple, visually attractive and easy to consume, can help millennials assimilate information better.
  • Appeal to their personal brand and the organization’s purpose: Millennials are more aware than most about the power of their personal brands and activism. They need to know they work for a socially committed brand10 and that it aligns with their own personal brand. The organization’s purpose matters a great deal for millennials. Communication that underscores this aspect will have greater appeal.
  • Give them ownership: Millennials expect to be treated as equals11 and with respect. They prefer choosing their mode of communication. Giving them choices help. Millennials are known to take personal safety12 – offline and online seriously. Let your communication reflect this aspect.
  • Preference for regular communication and mentorship. Although managers believe they are doing a great job in mentoring millennials, the generation disagrees13. The need for periodic and consistent feedback is more with millennials. They also value leaders14 whom they can look up to.
  • Respect their privacy and engage face to face: Millennials guard their privacy15 jealously and even though they liked being marketed to, it doesn’t mean brands can take them for granted. Also, while the importance of digital technology can’t be ignored at the workplace, it doesn’t overshadow the need for human touch and face to face engagement16.

To wrap-up, millennials are an important workforce group to reckon with. They have their preferences and choices and yet are very much like any other generation. Technology changes taking place around them influence how they communicate or prefer receiving communication. That said, millennials have a mind of their own, seek accountability and space and are more attuned to proactive communication that appeals to their personal brand.

References:

  1. com (year unknown): Research Confirms What We All Suspected. Millennials in the Workplace Are Not That Different From Other Generations.
  2. HuffPost (2015). Millennials in the Workforce — Engaging Them, Retaining Them
  3. FT (2018). The millennial moment — in charts
  4. Manpower Group (2016). Millennials Careers: 2020 Vision
  5. Manpower Group (2016). Millennials Careers: 2020 Vision
  6. MIT Sloan (2017). Three surprising ways millennials communicate
  7. Deloitte (2018). The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2018
  8. Goldman Sachs (year unknown). Millennials coming of age
  9. KPMG (2017), Meet the Millennials
  10. PwC (2011). Millennials at work
  11. Business Today (2019). Best companies to work for
  12. UL Workplace Health and Safety (2013). Millennials rank personal safety as top workplace issue
  13. Institute of Leadership & Management (2018). Workforce 2020: Managing Millennials
  14. Open Access Government. (2019). 2020 workforce will be dominated by millennials
  15. Pew Research Center (2015). Privacy in the Digital Age
  16. The Statesman (2019). Redesigning workplace communication for the millennial workforce

Aniisu K. Verghese is an award winning corporate communications and social responsibility practitioner with over 18 years of experience in leading multinational organizations. He is the author of Internal Communications – Insights, Practices and Models and is passionate about engaging communicators and students through workshops, speaking engagements, teaching assignments and blogging

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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