If you're like most of my clients, you're hungry to work with that powerful Generation Y demographic as both potential customers and as employees. But, like many of the business coaches, leaders and authors I work with, you still may be pounding your head against a wall when trying to connect with them. Why? If I had to guess, I'd say you're probably communicating with them in the ways you prefer to communicate. Bad idea!
Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, are roughly between the ages of 18 and 30 and are the first Internet generation. They text before they email, and certainly before they pick up the phone to talk. They have claimed the right to instant gratification: download that Kindle book, order that product online at 3am, ask Siri for an instant answer to a question. GenYers grew up immersed in the digital world and expect information and resources to be available at their fingertips. Or thumbs.
That's why you can't expect a 20 or 30-year-old to enjoy diving into a textbook or learning through a mundane presentation. Ultimately, you cannot educate, inform, or inspire this group to act until you meet them respectfully where they live and play. Gen Yers live and play in that digital space that exists ten feet above our heads. They consume information in short bursts, and need to feel connected to a larger purpose to buy a product or bring themselves fully to a cause or project.
In her book, “Millennial Leaders,” executive leadership coach Bea Fields celebrates this generation by saying: “Coupled with their unflagging confidence, technological superiority, and indomitable self-esteem, Gen Y is a cultural phenomenon.” Whether you are looking to sell to this demographic or want to attract their talents to your business, understanding and appreciating how Gen Yers work best can give you an edge. To better communicate with this group, consider these four essential approaches.
1. Be honest. This demographic can sniff out B.S. and they redirect their attention away from it in milliseconds. If you’re not communicating with candor, authenticity, and depth, they’ll never take the time to hear you, much less to consider working for you or buying your product. Ask yourself: what’s the heart behind your business? How does buying your product contribute to how this audience feels about themselves? How would devoting years of their life as an employee make them proud of who they are? Thisb demographic requires connection. They want to feel they have legitimate value in the world. They want to matter. Help them connect, through honesty, and they’ll pay attention.
2. Meet them in the digital playground. If you’re trying to communicate with them the way their parents do, you’ll simply never win. It's like asking kids in grade school to put away the devices they play with at home to learn from textbooks and methodologies that are outdated. Schools that embrace new technology in the classroom are creating learning environments where kids want to immerse themselves and you have an opportunity to think in this direction. Share the story behind your business honestly and then distribute that content in digital formats that are accessible via mobile devices and tablets.
3. Share information in nuggets. You’re talking about a population that appreciates communication in 140 characters or less. They self-edit and expect you to do the same. Instead of throwing a 200-page text on their desk to review, find ways to break up your communication into shorter, poignant modules. Instead of expecting them to read your 1,500-word academic article or blog, consider communicating in chunks of 500 words or less. There is nothing wrong with longer form content, as long as it delivers the goods, but your headline for that content and the sections within it need to be Tweetable.
4. Get Creative. You’re talking to a group that gravitates to the fun. Entertain them through creativity and while you’re making them feel real emotions, you can educate them on your value. Consider the creative vehicle as the highest form of communication with this audience. Well-edited video content, comic illustrations, stylized short films, and experiential events are huge with this crowd.
Despite the advantage of growing up with burgeoning technology, this next generation isn't so different from previous ones, they simply feel entitled at a younger age to live a life of meaning. That used to have to be earned. Now it's expected by this demo. Find a way to respect their approach to life and you'll see that you can learn from them while you teach.
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