Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Wednesday Wisdom - How to Communicate with a Millennial


"Compared to other generations, Millennials tend to be more collaborative, are accustomed to working in teams, and have a passion for pressure."
Joanie Connell


As a group, each American generation experiences the world in a way that's different from every other generation. Each cohort grows up in a period of history that molds them and affects how they see the world. As a result, each generation views life differently and learns differently. Each has different styles in communicating and different expectations of how they want to be treated.
When we understand these generational perspectives and communication styles, we can converse more effectively with each other. Not everyone is going to fit these stereotypes, but they are typical patterns and if you are aware of them you can learn to bridge the divide. This week we focus on the Millennials, also known as Generation Y.

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The Millennial generation, loosely defined as those born between 1980 and 1994, are the later offspring of the Baby Boomers, or the early offspring of Gen X. They are sometimes referred to as the "Y Gen" or the "Nexters." They are now some 80 million strong, which is a larger demographic cohort than the Baby Boomers. By the year 2020, Millennials will be 50 percent of the workforce.

Millennials were shaped by certain historical events as they came of age. Certainly the 9/11 attacks are first and foremost in what they recall. For them 9/11 was a super, super big deal. It shook them to the foundation and will likely have a lasting effect on many of them. They grew up in a world of Columbine, Sandy Hook, and other school atrocities. They remember the Oklahoma City bombing. They had a front row seat on the Clinton impeachment and the OJ trial. Those were some of the defining events in their lives.

They grew up with parents who were heavily invested in the lives of their kids. Those parents raised them with an eye toward building their "self-esteem," so "everyone was a winner" and everyone got a trophy. They came to believe that they were as qualified as anyone to do anything. Consequently, they tend to have a minimal respect for authority and are intent on fixing the wrongs they see in the world. They tend to be both self-absorbed and self-reliant and independent.

They came of age in a world of student loans and college debts. The recent recession hit as they were entering the job market, forcing many of them to trim back their expectations. This made it harder for them to live independently. Thus, as a group they have tended to stay longer at home, or to return home after college. The term "boomerang children" has been used to describe this phenomenon.

Suffused with praise from their Boomer parents, many Millennials got used to having their voices heard early on. They were also raised with a strong dose of "getting along." Inclusiveness is a must, served up in a collaborative setting. Their rallying cry is "a win for one is a win for the team."

They are totally immersed in all things digital; they've never known a world without internet. They saw the dot-com boom and bust, and they've seen instant billionaires from this new world of technology. Millennials like and expect to communicate through technology, which provides the instant interactive feedback they thrive on.

Millennials have a reputation for wanting to rise quickly through the ranks - and looking for other opportunities when they don't. They feel that they are as good as anybody, and therefore they resent it when others talk down to them. Very often they need humor - they've had access to humor through the internet for most of their lives. They want things to be fun and engaging. They often like a challenge, especially a challenge that invites them to implement their version of the world.

One young business owner described his experience with Millennial employees: "To start with, their attitude was one of boredom, arrogance, that they were above the job." He learned to focus on something Millennials value: teamwork. To prod those who often showed up late and didn't respect authority, he explained that their tardiness genuinely inconvenienced the rest of the team.

"I'd ask how they'd feel if the shoe were on the other foot and kept emphasizing how their actions hurt not me but their co-workers," he says. His strategy clicked. "As soon as they realized how their individual work mattered to the team's success, they thrived."

So how can we use this understanding to communicate more effectively with Millennials?

I. Medium

When it comes to the medium of choice, TEXT, don't call.

68% of millennials admit to texting "a lot" on a daily basis, compared to 47% of their Gen X counterparts. As a rule, Millennials tend to not use phones to make phone calls anymore. One study showed that "telephone" apps on smartphones - that is, using your phone to make actual phone calls - are only the fifth-most-used app among the general public.

Here's some anecdotal evidence in support of the "text, don't call" rule. The phone of one of my own Millennial children has the following voicemail message: "Hi, this is _______. Send me a text message and I'll get back to you right away."

So why do many Millennials dislike talking on the phone? It could be because they grew up with the gradual introduction of instant messaging, texting, email, and other forms of written communication. Texts are instant and mobile, which means they can be read and exchanged at almost any time.

Texting is a more comfortable and precise communication form for them. They're just as instantaneous as a phone call, but provide the sender the ability to think over their words before they're sent. For a group of people dubbed "the anxious generation," this is of utmost importance. Face-to-face meetings and conference calls are not as effective with Millennials, perhaps for the same reason. In addition, phone calls require a kind of interruption to someone's day, while text messages and emails can be opened and read at the recipient's leisure.

Millennials also prefer text messages for their mass-messaging capabilities. They're also good for spreading information about emergencies, since they're more likely to be read immediately than emails.

Despite the immediate availability of text messaging and other messaging apps, email remains popular among Millennials as well. So why haven't Millennials abandoned email in favor of newer forms of communication?

It may be because emails are less urgent, and provide more space than text messages. You can write entire paragraphs, with bulleted lists and other formatting choices, rather than being limited to a few hundred characters. And despite a rising trend of checking email on nights and weekends, emails aren't expected to have the same level of immediacy as text messages.

Among themselves, Millennials are likely to employ a wide array of social media - certainly not their parents' Facebook. They're more inclined to communicate with more "exotic" platforms like Snapchat and Instagram, which many of the older generations have yet to master.

II.  Message

Millennials want to think about how the world could be different, so here's a great phrase for them, "Let's talk about how that could happen." They believe things are possible, they believe that they have the capacity to make things happen. Millennials believe you should treat them as though they are going to pull this off, and very often they will.

Millennials want to be listened to. They want to provide input and be heard. When they are, they tend to be eager, ambitious, and genuinely talented. Millennials want and expect to be taken seriously. They want to feel as though their lives and what they do mean something

It's important to be brief. Millennials have mastered the art of saying something meaningful in 140 characters or less. The more concise your own message, the more likely they are to relate to or appreciate what you say. But just because you're concise doesn't mean you should skimp on the important information. Most Millennials prefer to receive a detailed plan or instruction before jumping into a project.

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