5 Tips to Break Through to Your Younger Workforce (without being cheugy)

Tyler Catania

According to Pew Research, Millennials (ages 28-43) overtook Baby Boomers (ages 60-78) as the nation’s largest living generation in 2020, and Qureos projects that Gen Z (or Zoomers; ages 12-27 ) will account for 27% of the workforce by 2025. This puts growing pressure on leadership to crack the communication code with a notoriously complex, bright, and quirky subset of the population.

This ain’t your mama’s 9-5 crew. This is a group of highly passionate and skilled dreamers who want to have their cake and eat it, too. Or, more accurately, they want to have their Flamin’ Hot Cheetos and eat them too. This means that understanding your younger staff’s needs and desires is paramount to building long-term and mutually beneficial partnerships. Because at the end of the day, if they aren’t happy, they will find a new place that makes them happy.

Here are 5 tips to break through to your younger workforce, without being too cringe or cheugy.

  1. Take an interest in the content they consume
    The content young people consume and how they consume it opens a valuable window into their personality. With more platforms, apps, and content streams than ever, it’s hard to pin down two Millennials or Zoomers who absorb media in the same way. Are they audio-driven via podcasts and music? Are they all YouTube all the time? Tik-Tok, Insta, Snap? Every once in a great while, you’ll even find an “old soul” who watches a TV screen or reads a novel from the comfort of their couch. In all likelihood, your employees consume a blend of all these things, but preferences prevail since there are only so many hours in the day.Getting to know how your team absorbs content is a great step in learning how you can best communicate with them. It also comes in handy when recommending learning resources so you can meet them where they are. A text-heavy novel probably isn’t the best option for an Air Pod addict if there isn’t an audiobook version while a 30-second Tik-Tok might not provide the depth that a bookworm is looking for.
  2. Learn what they stand for
    In a world often filled with negativity, it’s easy to get dragged into the doom and gloom of the world news cycle. That’s why it’s especially important for younger people to have a mission they care about – something that helps them contribute positivity to their environment. If you get to know what that mission for each of your team members is, you’ll have a direct line to their heart of hearts.Take time to discuss what matters most to your team and see how it can relate back to their everyday work. If you have an employee who has a bleeding heart for animal rescues, it might be good to mention to them that your client is hosting a puppy adoption rally next month that they can help with. If another employee is a devout vegan, it probably would behoove you to avoid having your team lunch at an all-you-can-eat steak buffet. These little acknowledgments really add up to a greater feeling of belonging and appreciation from your team, which only helps with overall morale and camaraderie.
  3. Teach with a mix of media
    Remember when we were talking about all that media people consume? Use it to your advantage! Death by PowerPoint is not fun for anyone involved. Neither is watching a 3-hour training video with no breaks. One of the keys to getting your message across is to vary the channels in which you are delivering the message.When appropriate, integrate things like YouTube videos, infographics, audio snippets, GIFs and memes into your meetings and training. This helps break up the content into more bite-sized chunks without boring your team to tears. At the very least they’ll appreciate the effort and might be more likely to remember something they are used to interacting with. Don’t be shy about using the internet or AI resources to spice up otherwise dry subjects. If you search it, it will come.
  4. Give them a platform to collaborate
    Believe it or not, some people have never been on an email chain for pleasure (those who lived in and around the 1990s might remember a particular dancing baby GIF that made its way across the World Wide Web on said chains), but I bet you almost everyone in your company has used a messaging app for fun.From its early inception in AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) to video game lobbies and now in the pocket of nearly everyone, group chats are a fundamental communication structure of Millennials and Zoomers. There’s no replacement for human face-to-face (or face-to-screen) interaction but building additional spaces for group chats can set the stage for accelerated connection, collaboration and productivity. Apps like Slack make it easy to message in a structured environment while adding in fun elements like GIF and calendar integration. If you’re struggling to get your team engaged via email, it might be worth it to start a thread instead.
  5. Check in regularly on their wellness
    The productivity of your team is sky-high on the priority list of any manager, but sometimes it’s too easy to separate the productivity from the person. It’s important to have frequent check-ins with your team to see how they are doing, both professionally and personally, to maintain a healthy working ecosystem. Simple questions about workload and stress can reveal underlying issues that would otherwise not be known, and being able to get ahead of addressing these issues is a lot more constructive than having to replace an employee who burns out and quits abruptly.Here are some easy check-ins:

    • What’s your week looking like? Any areas of concern?
    • How are your stress levels? (I know you’ve been handling a lot of deadline projects lately and you had to take your dog to the vet last week.)
    • Is there anything you’re super excited about in the coming months? Tell me more!

    Ultimately, giving your team a safe space to talk about their wellness is often all they need to feel heard. If you have the space and resources for it, simple activities like stress-reducing meditation times and going on short walks together can have a positive effect on your team’s happiness and productivity, as well.

All in all, everyone wants to know and feel they are valued. And this may be especially true for the younger generations. How you can show that varies by their unique personalities and circumstances, but knowing how to break through and communicate with them can set you up for success today and into the future. Try to speak their language – without speaking their language – and you just might get your message across without being too cringe or cheugy.

About the author

Tyler Catania brings experience in all areas of marketing to his role as Chief Operations Officer, including account management, media planning and social media. He’s an instrumental member of the Constellation Collective leadership team, collaborating on our brand, culture and onboarding/training processes. Tyler is involved with all agency clients, ensuring overall account productivity and client satisfaction. He’s also heavily involved in the Nebraska chapter of the American Advertising Federation, currently serving as 2nd Vice President.

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