As promised, albeit over a month ago, this is a follow-up to my previous post about Gen Y in the workplace. In Generation Y Connects (Part I), I succinctly established who Gen Y are and how they’re perceived in the workforce; in this post I’m going to explain the strategies that my company uses to communicate with them.
My employer specializes in creating integrated communication campaigns that relay Loss Prevention and Safety (LPS) messages to associate-level employees of large American retailers–we do more traditional marketing communications as well, but our specialty is helping our clients protect their bottom line. Just to provide some context, we begin any of our LPS campaigns by researching a given company’s employees’ perspectives on Loss Prevention. We prove that associate-level employees are typically unaware of how to spot potential shoplifters, the consequences of internal theft, and spotting hazards directly affects their personal safety.
While collecting information about employees’ perceptions about LPS in the workplace, we also collect their demographic information (specifically gender and age). So, for example, a typical employee of Winners is a female 17-22 years old, a typical employee of Office Max is a male 20-26 years old. Associate-level employees come from a younger demographic—these positions typically don’t pay very well and don’t include benefits (I’m not suggesting the aforementioned retailers don’t pay well; entry-level positions in any industry don’t pay very well—unless you’re working on an oil rig, but that’s an entirely different story.) As time goes on, and more and more members from Gen Y enter the workforce, our company has come up with four strategies to effectively communicate training messages to them:
- Voice and Delivery
- What’s in it for me?
As mentioned, Generation Y has grown up in a culture of receiving and assimilating large amounts of information on demand. Employers have to avoid inundating their employees with extraneous information to which Generation Y’ers won’t relate to—quite frankly, Gen Y becomes bored easily and is quick to move on to the next thing. My company use communication and graphic design aesthetics to synthesize information into drillable packets that Gen Y’ers can quickly access and compartmentalize. We use straightforward language and avoid “corporate” jargon–avoiding a dictatorial or overly authoritative communication style voice with that of being team player.
Gen Y’ers demand the benefit of the doubt and respect–and this can come across as a sense of entitlement or privilege. We highlight happy, fun or, low stress aspects of their jobs to demonstrate the flexibility in their job tasks. Our communications speak to Gen Y’ers as colleagues, not as subordinates–again, Gen Y has been trained to be confident in their talents and are more willing to cooperate with a friendly boss. Any training material for Gen Y’ers should always be focused on “work” from a realistic and appreciative point of view, but it should also be friendly and have a sense of humour. Regular recognition of good work can also go a long way–tangible rewards of a perceived value are important for engaging those who go above and beyond.
What’s in it for me?
In communicating to a Gen Y audience, it’s important to illustrate the benefits for everyone involved, the consistent expectations for their performance, the potential flexibility available for their unique style, and specificity in how they should operate. It must be made clear what the individual benefit is for doing something, especially if it’s perceived as going above and beyond their job–so, for example, my company has become the industry leader in explaining to employees the benefits of not stealing, reporting internal theft, and working safely. Gen Y’ers have a strong work ethic, however, it is best engaged when they are provided with challenging opportunities that really matter to them, have an altruistic motive, or offer them increased responsibility as a reward for their accomplishments. Furthermore, Gen Y’ers gravitate toward jobs that offer regular constructive feedback for development, ongoing training and learning opportunities.
Finally, any opportunity to personalize communications with Gen Y’ers is a good idea. they’re attuned to recognizing hype, spin, or “fluff” and when messages have a sincere, personal touch they tend to be more frequently given the benefit of the doubt and accepted. One way I like to think of this is imagining Gen Y as the Simpsons generation–they’ve been raised around media with a profound sense of ironic and parodic humour, and this carries forward in their ability to detect doublespeak. Communication modes that encourage spending time getting to know employees, recognizing their capabilities, and engage them in mentoring dynamics also tend to be accepted as genuine.
Fortunately, my employer embraces all of these strategies in dealing with their employees as well. I guess that’s why I love blogging about my job.