Communication is a foundational item in every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Yet, it is an aspect that we tend to take for granted especially in the business world. In my role, where I help companies understand and leverage their millennial talent while also helping millennials develop the communication and leadership skills necessary to one day lead the business world, I have noticed that there tends to be a massive generational divide on communication. However, I find that the people who have the ability to effectively communicate across generational lines can cut through any perceived differences and achieve success.
The wonderful thing about communication skills is that even if it is not one of your strengths, with a little work and effort, you can reap the benefits with your colleagues and employees.
Here are my top 5 tips for communicating with your millennial colleagues and employees:
Learn to listen…REALLY LISTEN.
Many people confuse the definition of the words “hearing” and “listening”. They assume that the two words are interchangeable. Unfortunately, they are not the same thing. When you truly listen to another person, you aren’t just hearing the words that are said. You are taking in the entire moment. You are noticing not only what is said, but how it is said, what is not said and most importantly, the body language of the speaker. All those elements combine to tell you the full story. If you are merely going by the actual words you heard, you are missing out.
A study by the famed researcher, Albert Mehrabian found that only 7% of what is communicated is done through the actual words used. Leaving an incredible 93% of the information conveyed to non-verbal forms of communication. By learning to truly listen to your millennial colleagues and employees, you are conveying respect and letting them know that their thoughts and opinions matter which leads to a sense of loyalty.
Short = Sweet.
When writing to communicate with your millennial employees shorter is better. For instance, if you are writing an email to one of your employees and you start out by asking how their weekend went and then start in on the funny story about your dog, you have already lost them. It is best to be direct, succinct and keep out unnecessary information. What would take your written communications to the next level would be to include bullet points of pertinent information that will allow them to easily scan the information from their cellphone.
Be constructive and consistent with feedback.
Millennials are widely known to want consistent, regular feedback from their managers. Many managers cringe at the very thought. The feedback doesn’t need to be extensive. Millennial employees want to know that they are moving in the right direction and a few constructive words from you, as their manager, can keep them going or help to avert a crisis. Many managers only give feedback when things are not going well. The feedback tends to come from a place of anger and/or frustration and often makes the receiver of the feedback feel as if they are being berated. Managers who are consistently communicating constructive (both positive and negative) feedback tend to have teams that function at the highest levels of efficiency and productivity.
Don’t make assumptions.
Assumptions tend to get us in trouble, yet as humans, we make snap judgments all the time. Whether we mean to or not, it happens. We have a need to categorize people. Over the years, the media has built a reputation for the millennial generation usually consisting of adjectives like: lazy, entitled, job-hoppers. Of course, you can find a million anecdotal examples to back each of these claims among others. But in reality, not every millennial conforms to these assumptions. In fact, a 2012 study done by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics refutes that job-hopper title. According to their data, millennials stayed in their positions for 3.2 years versus the Generation X cohort at the same point in their career at 2.7 years.
Assumptions in the workplace can be dangerous. At best, they keep us from uniting as a team. At worst, they can drive wedges between colleagues and eventually bring down team morale.
Be honest about your shortcomings.
It is quite common not want to share your shortcomings or (dare I say) failures with the world. Nobody likes to put them on parade. However, those shortcomings also make you human. Millennials, in particular, relate to our innate flaws. Once you start sharing those flaws, the millennials around you will start seeing you as transparent. As a bonus, millennials tend to relate transparency to trustworthiness. When you have employees that trust you, their levels of productivity increase.
The amazing effect that communication skills have in the workplace is that when communication is done well, it can make an incredible impact on any business situation. But when communication skills are lacking, that too, can have an incredible impact on any business situation. Without a solid foundation of good communication skills, companies will struggle to not only be productive and efficient, but also to be profitable.
Good communication skills are the key to making everyone feel heard and respected. Implementing these top 5 tips will increase your ability to work with colleagues and employees regardless of their generation.
To hear more advice on working with millennials tune into Amanda’s podcast interview with Ed Kless.