Engaging the New Workforce: Talking to Millennials

Rick Childs, Managing Director Consumer Products and Services Industry Leader

Millennials, the ascendant demographic group of people who came of age in the early 2000s, will soon surpass baby boomers as the majority of the global workforce. This is not a trivial fact for employers. Without overstating a generational difference, it’s safe to say that millennials interact with information differently from previous generations. To connect with these workers more effectively, organizations need to take a generation-appropriate approach to communication.

We recently published our views on millennial-friendly communication in a white paper, Millennial Communication 101, to help organizations understand who this new workforce is and what forces have influenced the way millennials learn and communicate. Our recommendations apply to everyday communication, as well as the design of educational and training materials for the workplace.

As the first digitally native generation, millennials are quick to embrace and master technology. Multitasking is second nature, and it is not unusual for them to be working on three to five screens at a time, shifting attention from task to task, every eight seconds on average, and alternating between business and personal communication.

Having been immersed in a ceaseless flow of information and stimuli since birth, millennials have become adept at skimming, dipping deeper into the data stream for more information only when something captures their imagination. Raised to process information newsfeed-style, they are more likely to engage with communications that are entertaining and visually oriented.

This is particularly relevant for on-the-job training. Whereas long training sessions requiring sustained attention may work for older workers, millennials absorb information best if it is presented in short, easy-to-digest modules drawn from relatable work-life experiences. Microlearning — the use of short two- and three-minute monthly videos, instead of a single long annual training session — can have a significant positive effect on retention.

Posters and other printed educational materials can help raise awareness, but for that information to be retained and applied, it will need to be presented and reinforced in a variety of formats over time, preferably in digital form. Video voiceovers work best when they are energetic, and ideally of the same generation. Animated objects and characters — particularly youthful ones — can create a greater visual memory than static illustrations or photos.

As a social generation, millennials prioritize their personal image. Tapping into this personal brand identity and its potential for increased or decreased social status among peers is often the best way to communicate about consequences — say, of opening a phishing email containing a virus, or being careless with client data.

For many employers, especially those with long-standing corporate culture, undertaking such shifts may seem like an imposition or even assault on traditional corporate values. However, we believe that streamlining corporate communications to meet millennial needs is an opportunity, as statistics show that these changes are enabling employers to revitalize their workplace culture and create stronger employee relations overall.

How does is your organization engaging with millennials? We are interested in your experiences — let us know in the comments. You can download the white paper here.

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