In a recent Fortune article, Katherine Reynolds Lewis says that many of the negative stereotypes about millennial workers could be alleviated if younger employees and more senior ones could just learn to communicate with one another more effectively. She writes:
“When employers first identified this issue and began talking about dealing with different generations in the workplace, managers could easily have felt that their young employees were too precious to upset with frank talk and had to be handled with kid gloves. But increasingly, companies are expecting both managers and Millennials to compromise on their communication styles and work habits, with a goal of meeting somewhere in the middle.”
In fact, clearing up a few communication issues could go a long way in helping engage and develop younger workers. As University of Califorina Santa Barbara researchers Karen K. Myers and Kamyab Sadaghiani explained in their recent study, “Millennials in the Workplace: A Communication Perspective on Millennials’ Organizational Relationships and Performance,” communication is a key factor to ensuring an effective team dynamic and maximizing performance. They wrote:
“In particular, communication that reveals shared values and reflects common commitments to organizational goals enables coworkers to forge and sustain productive relationships in organizations (Herriot 2002). Communication can also have direct and indirect effects on team and organizational performance (Greenbaum and Query 1999).”
Following are five practical tips that can help business leaders better communicate and work with Millennial employees, so that everyone produces at their highest capacity.
Five Tips to Communicate with Gen Y
1. Say It Digitally When Appropriate. In a recent BusinessInsider Column, author, expert, and Linkedin spokesperson Lindsey Pollak explained a few ways that Gen Y employees what their employers to communicate with them. First of all, she said, as digital natives, this age group is comfortable using technology to communicate. “Technology is completely expected, it’s completely part of their everyday lives, it is completely part of everything that they do.”
She added, “Make sure their technology and their access to social media is just as up-to-date and progressive as what the Gen Ys are using on their own, and that they’ll have those tools. They’re used to them, they’ve grown up with them, and they need them to a certain extent.”
2. But Be Digital Only When Appropriate. Pollak went on to say that not every conversation is appropriate for the digital realm. She explained, “All the Gen Ys who I’ve talked to say, ‘Just because I’m young, Just because I’m Gen Y, doesn’t mean that I want to be communicated with via email or via social media.” High touch still works with this generation. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that they want everything to be through text messaging or instant messaging.’
3. Communicate Frequently. According to Pollak, managers should also be mindful that younger workers are accustomed to getting a lot of feedback on their work – so be sure hold frequent discussions about expectations and performance. She explained, “they’re used to constant communication, constant feedback.”
Myers and Sadaghiani also emphasized the importance of frequent communication regarding performance.
4. Communicate Openly. According to Myers and Sadaghiani, Millennial employees are often more curious than those of other generations, and resist efforts to keep information on a “need-to-know” basis. They write, “Regardless of their low-level positions, Millennial workers feel a need to be kept in the loop of information.” If information is not something managers are comfortable sharing, they explain, they should be up-front as to why. “What Millennials may not fully understand is that increased communication and knowledge is associated with increased responsibility,” they add.
On the other hand, keeping Gen Y employees in the loop can help reduce turnover. They write:
“Management may find that investing Millennials with more responsibility concerning broader issues fosters feelings of involvement, which is a necessary component for organizational attachment (Myers and Oetzel 2003). More involvement also may help keep Millennials from feeling bored by their work, a primary reason for their premature turnover, according to popular literature (Alsop 2008).”
5. Develop Trust. Finally, Myers and Sadaghiani explain that Gen Y employees feel differently about “time horizons” than superiors.
“Popular literature claims that more so than in previous generations, they multitask, and view time as a valuable resource that should not be squandered (Deloitte 2009). Based on frequent praise from their parents and teachers, they have come to expect evaluation of their work to be based on the outcomes they produce, not based on the age, experience, or tenure of the person who produced them (Alsop 2008; Hill 2002).”
On the other hand, they continue, Gen X and Baby Boomer employees see “putting in your time” as a way to prove loyalty and reliability, and see this aversion to time-based work as opposed to outcomes-based work with suspicion. Myers and Sadaghiani suggest working on building trust-based communication across generations within the workplace to ensure that generations can better appreciate each others’ strengths.