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Right now, there’s about a 50% chance that you’re reading this on your mobile device, Axios tells us. And if it’s a weekend, the odds only go up. No doubt this wasn’t the case even just a few short years ago. But it’s among a number of trends in communication that have changed dramatically since Millennials became the largest share of the workforce. Whether you want to pin it on Millennials or not, one thing is for sure: the way we communicate at work has changed dramatically. As Forbes smartly points out, nearly half the world will be using messaging apps within the next two years. Your options are to keep up, or fall behind. It’s that simple. And as you seek the answers of how exactly to keep up with these rapidly changing technologies–be it chat groups or KPI dashboards–let’s start by understanding exactly how Millennials have changed communication at work.
OK, ready for your mind to be blown? According to a study reported on Inc.com, today’s Internet user forms a first impression of a page in 50 milliseconds. Posts with an image yield 650% higher engagement than text-only posts. Eighty-one percent of the people reading this blog post are just skimming it (and very likely glossed right over this section). And by next year, 84% of communication will be visual. So why in the hell are we still using email as our primary mode of communication? Right off the bat, it’s clear that when you’re trying to celebrate your employees’ wins, shooting out a quick announcement, or even just post the weekly stacks, visual dashboards and leaderboards are going to be much more appealing to your Millennial workforce.
Would you have guessed that this post was originally written on a Google Doc? Rather than the back and forth of emailing, tracking changes, and worrying about who owns the master, we were able to collaborate and live edit in real time–helping to get an extra set of eyes on our content and sharpen it up faster. It’s not just about open-air office space. Millennials want to work more collaboratively with their teams. Gone are the days of intra-office hierarchy, one person doing all the grunt work and the boss just working on “strategy.” As HuffPo reports, a culture of collaboration is one of the top qualities that Millennials want in their future employer. So what happened? Was is just one too many group projects in grade school? As that same article goes on to explain, that desire for collaboration actually has more to do with finding a sense of fulfillment at work:
You’re reading that right: a more collaborative culture actually drives job satisfaction, which in turn increases how engaged and productive your employees are. So next time, think twice before you make a joke about that group of bean bag chairs in the corner of the room, or the quirky “win” announcements on your visual leaderboard. They may just be helping to drive up your productivity.
You may be scratching your head: doesn’t this just mean “honesty?” And you’re not wrong: but that’s also not the full picture. It isn’t that Millennials value honesty more than other generations, per se. It’s that they want everyone to feel that they are fully expressing themselves. Before we get too theoretical, Karl Moore, a contributor at Forbes explains the implications for business and company culture: He says that when a company has potentially outdated or restricting policies about how to behave, or dress, or even work, Millennials “are forced to hide their true feelings and engage in emotional acting in which they project ‘appropriate’ feelings. The very expectation to obey the rules and guidelines of the company runs counter to their worldview, which values diversity. It restricts their ability to show who they truly are.” This may sound a lot like coddling to you, but Karl isn’t wrong. And if you feel like you’re losing a battle for your employees’ attention, it may be because you’ve got a stringent setup that isn’t allowing them to feel and work like… them. It doesn’t take a complete overhaul of your business to open up a culture of authenticity. But it does take some creativity, and a willingness to try something new.
Remember that statistic at the start of this post about how quickly users are forming first impressions? That translates all across Millennial behavior: Salesforce even points out that 52% of Millennials will abandon online purchases if they’re unable to get a “quick answer.” And that has implications for everything from the weekly emails you’re sending out, to those daily morning meetings that most of your team is struggling not to sleep through. For every task that you’ve put on a Millennial employee’s calendar that “wastes” time, you can pretty confidently bet that it’s chipping away at their engagement levels at work. The more places that you can cut down on time each week, the more your Millennials employees are going to thank you for it–in their attitude and in their output.
According to Gallup, Millennials truly rely on feedback for their best work, but unfortunately, they’re also not always asking for it–and only about one in five are consistently receiving it. One way you can quickly combat that is to simply be a more proactive manager. Whether it’s shooting out an announcement about a win over the leaderboards, or simply taking the time to engage with your employee’s work, it’s really just a matter of simple gestures that can go a long way. Millennials may have dramatically changed the way we communicate at work, but it’s on managers to really meet them where they’re at.
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