3 Ways to Better Communicate With Your Millennial Employees

Posted by: Jeff Fromm

In the same vein that Millennials are a generation of consumers unlike what the market has seen before, they are also a very different generation of employees. After all, before they entered the work force, who would have imagined that regular flex hours and casual garb outside of Fridays would become mainstream?

While in some cases this has led to unfortunate stereotypes and myths regarding their work ethic (e.g., lazy, unfocused, unprepared), Millennials are actually paving a way for new expectations in the workplace that is increasing efficiency and shaping the way the overall workplace functions.

This Millennial mindset in the workplace emphasizes that employees don’t work for you – they work with you.

In fact, 88 percent of Millennials prefer a collaborative work environment rather than a competitive one.

This desire for and prioritization on collaboration is a core tenet that stems into all facets of the workplace for Millennial workers, including how and in what ways they communicate. Rather than keeping their work lives separate from their personal ones, Millennials want a balance between the two. This manifests itself in multiple ways, from how they wish to build relationships with managers and coworkers to what forms of communication they utilize.

We have identified three key strategies for brands looking to leverage these new preferences of workplace communication:

 Find value and show interest in employees’ personal lives.

Millennials highly prioritize their personal lives and what matters to them on an individual level. They want the ability to integrate these feelings into their work life as it helps them manage the variety of goals they have set and it gives them an added sense of value within their companies. When they are accomplishing their desires and have a sense of value, they perform better and build loyalty to their company.

Managers should be aware of what Millennial workers are dealing with in their personal lives and learn about what they are interested in outside of the office. This shows that they care about employees as human beings and want them to find success in performing and growing both personally and professionally.

“If managers understand what is going on in the rest of their employees’ lives, they are able to recognize the real work they put in day after day and appreciate them in a better way that benefits both parties,” said Nate Regier, Ph.D. and co-founder, owner and CEO of leadership communication consultancy Next Element.

Utilize digital communication but don’t forego face-to-face interaction.

The Millennial generation is fluent in digital communication, having grown up with the luxury always at their fingertips. Because of this, they do communicate comfortably and frequently by texting, emailing and social media messaging. In fact, according to Gallup, text messaging overtook phone calls as the dominant form of Millennial communication in 2014. This is no different in the workplace. Millennials are completely at ease with their managers and co-workers communicating with them in this fashion on a variety of topics, as well.

However, this isn’t to say that Millennials prefer digital communication to a face-to-face connection. Gary Duke, partner and chief talent officer at talent development consulting firm Wild Blue Yonder, finds that Millennials would pick an in-person interaction over an email if they had the chance.

“The real reason it is portrayed as otherwise is simply because they are more comfortable with digital communication in any given situation in comparison to older generations whom tend to shy away from it,” Duke explained.

Give detailed feedback, and give it often.

As Millennials have grown up in an era of remarkable connectedness, they are used to instantaneous feedback in all facets of their lives. This extends to the workplace. They want to have the immediate ability to ask questions, share opinions and provide commentary and have their boss do the same. Overall, Millennials want feedback 50 percent more than employees of other generations, according to SAP.

If companies can provide this type of environment it will lead to a sustainable payoff, as nearly 85 percent of Millennials say they feel more confident in their roles when they can have more frequent conversations with their managers. Gallup recommends these conversations take place least once per week, as this leads to the highest engagement among Millennial employees.

While this doesn’t have to be a face-to-face discussion or time investment each and every week for managers, Regier suggests that in-person meetings take priority when discussing serious feedback.

“When it comes to compliance or meeting basic skills, Millennials are happy with digital, but when it comes to more serious conversations and issues of advancement, performance, promotion or goal-setting, they want real, in-person conversations that offer specific and actionable things they can do to make a difference,” he said.

As Millennials continue to grow in the workforce and begin taking over managerial and supervisory roles (one-in-three American workers today are Millennial, surpassing Generation X as the largest share), it will be vital for brands across industries to understand and incorporate Millennial communication preferences if they hope to attract and retain the talent they seek. This, in turn, will inform their public perception and growth opportunities and impact their bottom line.

About Jeff Fromm

Although not a Millennial as defined by his age, Jeff Fromm is the Millennial Marketing Guy. Jeff is President of FutureCast, a marketing consultancy that specializes in Millennial trends, and is a contributing writer at...See Jeff's full bio.