As more and more millennials enter the workforce each year, it's important that employers and employees of older generations are well equipped to work productively with their younger colleagues. Generational differences can lead to communication issues at work, which can in turn lead to bigger problems.
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Luckily, communication issues can be prevented when everyone makes the effort to bridge the generational gap. Here's some advice on forming valuable workplace connections with the millennials in your office:
1. Be an Authentic Leader
Millennials thrive on authenticity. "Authentic leadership" is an alternative to leadership styles that emphasize profit and shareholder value above personal relationships and ethics. To be an authentic leader means to build legitimacy through honest relationships with followers. These relationships are built on ethical foundations. If you have authentic relationships with your followers, your followers will begin to genuinely value your input as a leader.
According to Inc. magazine, 92 percent of millennials believe that business success should be measured by more than just profit. This indicates a strong aversion to profit-focused leadership among millennial-age employees. By building trust and generating enthusiastic support among their subordinates, authentic leaders are able to improve individual and team performance and are more likely to gain the respect of their millennial workers.
2. Meet Them Where They're At – Be Up to Speed on Technology
We've all had conversations with our grandparents that began "When I was your age ..." or "Back in the day ...".
Millennials are getting tired of being told how different they are from previous generations, but the truth is they are different. They grew up in a very different world than their parents did. Millennials had Internet-equipped cellphones in grade school; they will Google anything before they go to a library to look it up.
Instead of asking your millennial coworker to show you how they do things, get a younger family member or friend to tutor you. Let someone you know outside of the office help you download the latest apps and show you how to use them. Learning about millennials' technology habits and practices on your own time will better enable you to form a connection with your younger colleagues.
If you're not up to speed on Snapchat, iPhones, Instagram, or any other popular technologies, you're underestimating the value these things can have in connecting with the younger generation. In a recent Nielsen survey, millennials cited "technology use" as the most defining characteristic of their generation.
Tech-based rituals, like Snapchatting live events and checking social media anywhere and everywhere, are fundamental to the millennial lifestyle. Millennials prefer to be texted than called, and they get their news from social-media platforms instead of from television or newspapers. According to the same Inc. article mentioned above, 70 percent of millennials have "friended" their managers and/or coworkers on social media. The average millennial is connected to 16 coworkers through social media.
3. Use Video to Your Advantage
If you're leading a virtual team, as many leaders are these days, consider using video technology to connect with your remote employees. Millennials have grown up in the age of YouTube. They connect well with the medium of video. Look online for videos to use during employee training sessions. There are tons on YouTube addressing thousands of topics, so you can almost always find a video that's relevant to your point.
You can even record important messages using your webcam and send them around to employees in video format instead of writing long emails. Many companies use this practice to share corporate-wide messages from executive leadership. Doing so enables these leaders to connect on more personal levels with their employees. This technique works just as well within a smaller team.
Carolyn Thompson is principal of the Merito Group, where she leads a team that performs executive search, contract labor placement, executive coaching, and other related services.