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The Best Way to Engage Millennials at Work

Mobile push notifications

Millennials, more than any other generation, are attached to their phones. If you want to engage them in your workforce, take your cues from social media and “push.”

Although there are more similarities than differences between generations, social media stand out in great contrast. According to research by Buzzstream.com, more than 25 percent of Millennials use their mobile phone as their primary device to view content, which allows them to receive instant “push” notifications for information they find valuable. Both Gen X and Boomers still use their laptops or desktops as their go-to devices to view content.

This has significant ramifications in the way Millennials want to be communicated with in the workplace.

 

WHY DOES THIS MATTER?

In addition to being digital natives who grew up in the golden age of the smartphone revolution, Millennials have become savvy at personalizing their desired media through apps. Mobile is fresh, relevant, and immediately available. Mobile is able to push what you want, when you want it. They want and need that same mode of communication at work. Are you delivering on their expectations?

This quote from a Millennial says it all about why they love mobile:

“I almost never use an actual computer unless I am at work or have to process data. Mobile is easy because it is with you at all times. Mobile devices also send ‘push’ notifications, which alert you about certain things. For instance, I have the ESPN app configured to tell me the scores of Eagles, Flyers, and Phillies games, plus major news. So instead of going on a computer and typing in ESPN.com and looking at the Eagles’ page, I get any relevant info in a snippet on my phone right when it happens. Then I can choose whether to just read the headline and dismiss or to open the app and read more.”

This is their expectation for all communication — including the way you communicate as a leader. That’s a very high bar. It almost sounds like a full-time job. A lot of leaders feel like they’re really trying hard, but never seem to satisfy the voracious appetite for information and feedback of their Millennial teammates. It’s frustrating for everyone.

 

HOW CAN WE INFLUENCE IT?

Is there an app for that? The answer is yes. You are the app. Make a couple of immediate changes to leverage this important communication dynamic. Think of it this way. You must “push” to your team the information that they want. How do you know what they want? Ask them. Become their app store.

Asking them will help you gain emotional intelligence. Empathize and give them what they want. Be ready to communicate it with speed. Be relentless and communicate in real-time, all the time. The best way to do it is still face to face — better known as instantaneous vocal technology. If that’s not practical for you, send texts like this: “Meeting w designers at 3 re logo. Thx for input. More to come.”  

Make your communications quick, easy and digestible. Go for quantity of frequency, not quantity of words. Check in with them on how it’s going. What’s working and not working? Be willing to make adjustments. They will tell you if there are things you’re communicating that they’d like to “unsubscribe” to. The first thing on their list will likely be your boring weekly status report meeting. Don’t take it personally.

 

THE BIG PAYOFF

If you’re a great communicator, then you are at least a good leader by default. Yes, it’s that rare of an attribute. If you’re a good leader, then you’re engaging people to perform at a high level.

Everyone on your team, but especially the Millennials, will value and respect you as leader if you’re a communicator who is willing to “push” what you know to be true, plus the immediate next steps to make progress on the issue. You will gain a leadership edge by engaging the full team to do incredible work if it feels fresh, relevant and timely.

Imagine having leaders at all levels committed to “push” communication. What you’ll end up with is an agile innovation culture that feels highly respected, fully informed, and engaged to take on the most pressing challenges in your organization. It starts with the awareness of what’s important to people, and finishes with the moment-to-moment choice to “push” communication as a true leader.

 

SUMMARY

  • Millennials have especially high expectations for communication in the workplace influenced by the way they use social media to “push” the information they choose to receive.
  • Supervisors, managers and leaders can become highly effective by implementing proactive and purposeful tactics to communicate with high frequency in real-time.
  • “Push”-style communication can be taught and executed across an entire organization to shape an agile innovation culture that engages Millennials and all generations.

 

By Steve Van Valin