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Communicating With Generation Y

February 1, 2000
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With the influx of GenY employees, organizations need to evaluate how they currently communicate with employees. Is it still the best way? These guidelines will give you something to chew on.

What’s In It For Me?
This is the first and last question for GenY always. Recently, organizations have been struggling with how to move from telling employees "What you can do for us" to telling them "What this will do for you."

GenY makes this struggle even more urgent. No GenY employee believes in giving loyalty in exchange for employment. The organization must continually communicate the connection between the work a GenY employee is doing today and the work he wants to be doing tomorrow.

GenY Needs to Know Why.
Nothing helps draw a line of site between today’s work and tomorrow’s goals more than the big picture. Companies tend to dwell on what is happening. Study after study shows employees want to know why it’s happening. Understanding why gives employees the information they need to start to figure out "What’s in it for me?"

Historically, organizations do a good job of communicating what and a poor job of communicating why. With GenY on board, why will prove itself to be the critical message.

Say it Straight.
Politics don’t count. The confines of a hierarchical structure with positional power are foreign concepts to GenY. For this group, moving ahead is about contributing ideas that are implemented today. They don’t recognize the old-school notion to wait until they’re in the "right position" to address a particular issue or problem.

As a result, expectations, consequences and recognition must be communicated early and often in a straightforward manner. Leaving communication up to the old-school interpretation is asking for major misunderstandings along the way. Organizations must learn to say it straight.

Make Technology Count.
Your company’s intranet competes with the Internet. GenY employees came of age surfing on the net. This group’s expectations of online communication is higher than ever. Personalized Intranet sites with individualized information will be the norm. Employee loyalty will be earned by linking employees to the company via the Intranet.

Using the company’s technology to make things like getting insurance reimbursements, car maintenance and babysitters easier will tie employees to companies in newfound ways. Loyalty will come from making day-to-day life easier by being at work.

Realize Supervisors Are Still the One.
One thing has not changed. GenY employees are like every generation before. They want to get their information from their immediate supervisor. This is the person they see every day. It is the person they trust. Supervisors are the critical link between what the organization is trying to achieve and what each GenY employee wants to achieve.

There will be even more pressure for supervisors to translate lofty missions, customer service platitudes and community service creeds into meaningful language for GenY. Supervisors can’t do it alone. The organization as a whole will need to work hard to attach the "What’s in it for me?" message to everything.

Don't Forget Performance Reviews.
There is no better vehicle to communicate the personalized "What’s in it for me?" message than the performance review. Reviews should be held quarterly to check for understanding between the job and the expectations of GenY. Quarterly talking points and key messages should be developed so that every manager or supervisor who is responsible for reviews has a solid guideline of what to say.

This is a great way for the company to deliver big picture messages in terms that are meaningful to the GenY employee. But, it puts even more pressure on supervisors to be good communicators. That’s why every communication plan should include ways to support supervisors in their role as communicators. The organization should also consider providing supervisors with interpersonal communication skills training that highlights the GenY challenge.

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