I ran into an old buddy of mine recently who is running his own business. He was telling me about his struggles communicating with the millennials on his team. 

Going back three years ago, I was presenting as a keynote speaker at a conference and talking about coaching and mentoring for leaders at all levels. One woman in the audience offered that she had a coach who was 30 years her junior. The reason?  She was working with millennials and was facing the same problems as my friend – she did not understand them. She met with her millennial coach every week to review her issues and questions and gradually came onside to this common headache: how do we communicate with millennials in a manner that works for both sides?

So, I met with a millennial today and asked her about this. I asked her for five tips for all of us when communicating with her cohort and this is what I learned.

1. Give us immediate feedback. We want the feedback, good or bad, now and not two weeks from now. Don’t let it fester.  And be honest, but do it soon.  She wouldn’t speak for everyone out there but she does suggest that the majority of her age group felt that timely and honest feedback is critically important to a healthy communication channel between management and themselves.

2. Respond quickly. Kind of on the same wavelength. Our group, she says, is not into the politics nor the traditional approach to solving problems. We want to move quickly and we want our responses fast.

3. We like our information in small, short bites. This doesn’t mean we want to communicate using Twitter but our minds are set to the short form and this is how we prefer to receive much of our information.     

4. Recognize us. Find a way to offer some type of recognition every once in a while. We need it, she says. We have many options out there these days and the more recognition we get, the better off we will feel. This does include, by the way, recognizing the bad stuff, with constructive feedback, as well as the good stuff. Both of these show that you’re paying attention, you know where we are and that you care, she suggests.

And it doesn’t really fit under ‘communicating’ but my millennial friend asked me to remind you:

5. Flex hours really do work. She says that while there might be a few bad apples in the group, the vast majority of them are hard workers, dedicated and, most importantly, really want to do well and to succeed. Flex hours and working remotely will not compromise this position.  They may work from home on a Monday and it might seem like they are not dedicated for the full 8 hours that day but watch them, she suggests, put in 14 hours the next day – to make sure the job is done.

I’m a baby boomer, as you might know.  I don’t have to manage a team of millennials, but if I did, these five tips would be valuable to me.

It’s a different world than 25 years ago. Our kids have options and lots of opportunities. Mess with their core values and we may find ourselves short a few staff members one of these days.

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