Learning with TBOE

Understanding and getting the most from millennials

Posted on November 27th, 2018 in Event News, Industry Insight, Leadership, Speaker Interview

Millennials often get a bad rap. Whether they’re being lambasted for being entitled or if their spending is being questioned, there don’t seem to be many kind words being sent in their direction.

However, as they make up a large part of today’s workforce, it pays to understand them. Whether you’re working alongside them or organising events for their benefit, knowing what makes them tick is crucial.

We spoke with Holly Ransom, a young woman with an extraordinary CV. Holly is a huge advocate for multigenerational workforces and we took a moment to pick her brain about what millennials have to offer and how to make the most of their skill sets.

Create a plan that resonates

If you’ve got a plan, you have a north star, a direction to follow, and now you need to get everyone to follow it with you and make the plan work – and communication is the key.

The thing that often kills plans, according to Holly, is the b-word – being too busy – or the fact that a plan is so ambitious and insurmountable that people feel paralysed by the sheer size of it. So, what can we do to get our plans into action?

Communication needs to be focused in a way that will resonate with the team and get people engaged. The idea must be positioned in a way that creates motivational buy-in and gets people to move towards action. Once there is action the plan can be chunked down into achievable tasks to ensure progress on a day-to-day and week-to-week scale.

Millennials like to ask why

Millennials are a purpose-driven generation. They are invested not just in what a company does, but in why it does it. Seeing things from their perspective can help us shift our focus on why we run our company the way we do, or even help us gain a clearer understanding of who we are as a company.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of ‘we’ve always done it this way’ but when you’ve got a fresh set of millennial eyes on a problem the question becomes ‘why do we do it this way?’. As a digital generation who have experienced massive shifts in communication technologies in their young lives, millennials have a unique position to envision changes and innovations in how we communicate.

Holly believes we should embrace the critical power of millennials. She said, “Millennials can often be really positive antagonisers in the sense of pushing us to get better, pushing us to refine our ideas, pushing us to challenge whether the assumptions that we might have originally built an idea, or a concept, or even an entire business model on, still hold in this day and age.”

Create two-way mentorships

Traditionally, mentoring has involved an entrenched team member teaching the ropes to a new person, but Holly explains that there is so much to be gained by encouraging ‘reverse mentoring’. Reverse mentoring involves a two-way dialogue between team members of different generations as different levels of experience opens up opportunities for growth and change.

It can be as simple as asking millennial employees “Hey, here’s what we’re working on, I’d love your perspective” or “What am I missing? If you were me, what would you do?”

Holly has seen a lot of companies engaging in reverse mentoring, pairing up millennial workers with some of their baby boomer leaders, and encouraging them to talk about how the business is running, customer experience and talk about things that we are interfacing with on a day-to-day basis.

Millennials know best how to communicate with millennials

Cookie-cutter communication and leadership approaches aren’t enough. Different generations engage in communication differently and it’s important to diversify our approach in accordance with these varied needs. What works in your internal communication or marketing for baby boomer audiences is unlikely to resonate with millennials and other age groups.

Holly recommends using workplace surveys to ascertain communication effectiveness and engagement levels. By structuring the surveys in a way in which the data can be compared, we can check engagement scores across different generations.

Holly’s own results showed that not everyone surveyed was equally engaged. She said, “We’re actually getting really different engagement scores across different generations of the business, and it has helped us to identify where we’ve got a lean in and problem solve a little bit better, because you can actually have high levels of engagement for one group and have actually quite low for another.”

Holly believes in the power and value of every generation. She hates to see any generation disparaging another and millennials are no exception. Millennials have plenty to offer any workforce whether as reverse mentors, innovators or simply by shaking things up and encouraging us to reconsider and realign our businesses.

To hear more from the inspirational Holly Ransom, book your ticket to The Business of Events, 7- 8 February 2019 at Sheraton Grand Sydney Hyde Park.