The ability to communicate clearly and effectively is a necessity, both in our social lives and our work lives. As the famed Presidential speechwriter James C. Humes wrote, ‘the art of communication is the language of leadership.’ The number of ways we can communicate, however, has never been greater.
No generation knows this better than those who grew up during the era of the internet, the millennials. And communicating with this demographic of the workforce has never been more critical. As of 2016, millennials represent the largest portion of the U.S. labor force- now at around 43%, and are predicted still to make up over 41% by 2030.
Comparing these statistics to the fact that only 29% of millennials currently feel engaged at work, it becomes apparent that a lot can be done to engage better with this section of the workforce. In this post, we’ll take a look at seven ways to engage the millennial workforce through effective communication at work.
1. Embrace remote working
As the famous saying goes, ‘It is not distance that keeps people apart, but lack of communication.’ Recent years have seen many companies embrace the idea of remote working, a policy of great importance to millennials, particularly in the post-pandemic world.
It’s been found that a staggering 74% of millennials don’t want to return to the office five days a week, with two-thirds of responders expressing that remote work creates a better work/life balance, and seven in ten reporting that it helps to relieve stress.
Remote working can indeed come with some challenges that aren’t present in a traditional work environment. But with clear and comprehensive communication channels, there’s no reason why managing remote employees needs to be a headache.
2. Revolutionize your telephone calls
Making a phone call is one of the quickest and most convenient methods of communication. Not only is it more personal than an email, but it has never been easier to reach your colleagues through a voice call, thanks to the number of internet-enabled devices we all have access to. And with 90% of millennials using a smartphone, and 100%, the internet, this is a crucial means of engagement for them.
Cloud-based telephone systems allow phone calls to be made wherever you have access to an internet connection, meaning that employees in the office, on the daily commute, or even working remotely are never out of reach. It’s well worth looking into setting up such a business phone system, regardless of the size of your operation.
3. Give webinars a shot
Although it may sound complicated, a webinar is essentially just a seminar conducted over the internet. It’s one example of a way in which a traditional office environment can be replicated online, meaning that employees from all around the globe can be present together and interact in a more personal way than a phone call.
The beauty of webinars is that they allow for two-way communication; training sessions are much more effective when those learning can ask questions of whoever is sharing their knowledge.
Although setting up a webinar may seem daunting at first, there are plenty of tools available out there to help businesses as they take their first steps into the world of webinar hosting.
4. Support digital communication
Embracing digital communication is a must for the modern business, especially if you have employees working remotely. There are a multitude of communication channels available to keep in contact with a digitally savvy generation such as the millennials.
Group messaging platforms and video conferencing software are just a couple of examples of communication channels that are replacing slower and more outdated methods, such as email.
Of course, digital communication can be a double-edged sword. Having all these different mediums to be contacted through can make it seem like you’re constantly at work, and that can soon lead to a less productive employee.
That’s why it’s crucial to set boundaries (more on that in point seven below) to make sure nobody is experiencing Zoom fatigue (yes, that’s a real term for a real problem)!
5. Recognize the importance of face-to-face interaction
Although technology has increased the number of ways we can communicate long-distance, it is important to remember the value of face-to-face communication as well. Not only does in-person communication help to build interpersonal relationships among the workforce, but it can also give greater clarity to the information being conveyed.
Even businesses with large numbers of employees working remotely can encourage face-to-face communication by planning events such as ‘all hands’ meetings. Gathering your employees in a large, open space and encouraging the exchange of ideas is a great way to promote peer-to-peer communication and get your workforce to share knowledge and ideas in a stimulating environment.
Shaking up how we communicate keeps things fresh and interesting and helps prevent the overuse of technology. Numerous adverse effects of technology on our mental health have been documented, ranging from slight eye strain to sleep deprivation. Introducing opportunities to leave the devices to one side in favor of face-to-face interaction can help reduce these. And for a generation in which six in ten rank well-being as one of their highest priorities in a job, encouraging a healthy work environment is critical.
6. Transparency is key
How we communicate is important, but what we communicate can be just as vital. Maintaining honest and open channels of communication builds trust among employees. Providing feedback on company targets and news within the business keeps employees in the loop and makes them feel engaged and valued.
Similarly, providing honest feedback to employees about their work performance and simply thanking them for doing a good job goes a long way towards building a lasting relationship. Studies show that giving recognition to millennials, even in small ways, provides them with a greater sense of personal fulfillment. 79% of millennials said that an increase in recognition rewards would make them more loyal to their employer.
One famous example of a company that takes great pride in its transparency among employees is Google, which holds regular Q&A sessions. Employees even have access to presentations given to the board of directors.
7. Limit communication to working hours
Nobody, millennials or otherwise, wants to feel like they’re at work 24/7. But millennials particularly place a lot of emphasis on work/life balance. Almost six in ten of them consider this a top priority at work. That’s why it’s essential to understand that employees working remotely may need a helping hand in separating their home lives from their work lives, and that means they may not be accessible all hours of the day.
Simple things like setting alarms to remind employees to take breaks or recommending that they set up an office space away from their bedrooms can help keep those working from home focused and stop them from experiencing burnout.
It’s estimated that the human brain can only focus for about 45 minutes at a time on its best days, so taking a short break after that time ensures you’re only working while at your most productive.
So what have we learned?
So there we have it, seven tips for better engaging with the millennials in your workforce. As with anything in life, not all of these pointers will apply to every situation. The key is finding what works for your business, and more importantly, your employees.
As we’ve discussed above, open and honest communication is valued highly by a large portion of millennials, so why not ask them what would help them feel more engaged at work? Maybe drop them a text, an email, a video call, or an instant message? Just make sure you catch them during office hours, of course.