The generational composition of the nation’s workforce is constantly changing, and, at certain times, it seems the landscape creates an entirely new snapshot. Such will be the case by 2020, when nearly half (about 46 percent, by most estimates) of the workforce will be comprised of millennials. Which is a particularly important statistic for today’s leaders, who are, by and large, boomers or gen Xers, with a few veterans still sprinkled in.
Making room for the next generation has often been fraught with some headache: each previous generation embraces different viewpoints and honors different values than the ascending one. Such is certainly the case these days, as millennials make their way into more and more offices, bringing with them new ideas, characteristics, and expectations. It can be a clash at times—“I think there’s a disconnect because older workers come from a time when you have one career for life and corporate loyalty, and millennials just want to make an impact on day one,” notes Dan Schawbel in a study he conducted in conjunction with American Express. A millennial himself and founder of Millennial Branding, a gen Y research and management consulting firm, Dan also points out that one of the best ways to bridge the divide is through effective communication, which includes managers’ setting expectations, particularly regarding how the employee can move through the ranks.
That, however, might be more easily said than done. A study conducted by ClearCompany and Dale Carnegie shows that only five percent of companies “
communicate goals on a daily basis,” which means that 95 percent of companies are missing out on a key driver for
employee engagement and retention. Communicating company vision and
personal milestones in only annual reviews allows too much room for employees to deviate from what’s expected, which can create misunderstanding, disconnect, tension, and turnover. Most employees like to know that they’re more than just a cog; they want to feel like they’re part of the bigger picture. In fact, millennials in particular are
motivated when they feel that their jobs have meaning and that they impact the work; they want to feel valued and clear about their purpose.
Communication about performance or work style shouldn’t be hard—with any employee, regardless of generation. What’s nice is, millennials expect and are open to recurring feedback and check-ins. Raised under constant supervision and with great access to technology, this generation is accustomed to consistent touch points, collaboration, and communication, and they want to be very clear on their projected path up the corporate ladder. What’s more, regular communication with millennials is actually pretty easy. Something as simple as a quick word of thanks or informal supportive feedback, a fast email, or—even better for this technology-friendly generation—a short text message can do worlds for keeping a millennial employee engaged, happy, and ultimately productive.
As we move toward a more millennial-weighted workforce, it will become increasingly important to know how to work with that generation—and it will start with effective communication. Once they recognize that regular, consistent feedback and communication can become just part of an easy ongoing conversation, senior leaders will see that the benefits out of millennials are numerous: increased productivity and motivation, better employee morale, stronger teams, and greater company