Ah, Millennials, can’t live with them, can’t run a business in the 21 st century without them. If you’re a high-level Communication Executive or Internal Communication Manager for a company with a shifting workforce, chances are you’ve had it up to here with unread memos and ignored newsletters. The silver comms bullets that worked a charm to keep the Baby Boomer generation informed are ricocheting all over the place, wreaking havoc, causing a perpetual state of mild panic, and begging the question: For the love of Pete, what now?!
What you need to do, my friend, is feed their Babel Fish.
Introducing the Babel Fish
Douglas Adams introduced the Babel Fish as a universal translator that neatly crossed the language divide between any species in his cult-classic science fiction anthology The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. In this fantastical interdimensional universe, space travellers would stick a Babel Fish, a little leech-like orgasm, in one ear when they encountered a language they didn’t understand. The organism would then feed off brain wave energy, and well, uhm, poop information. In short – it translated foreign speech into something your brain can compute.
Yes, we know, cool story bro, but how about getting back to the bit about communicating with Millennials? You got it, chief!
Using the Babel Fish Formula to Keep Millennial Employees Informed
The first thing you need to do is get rid of the notion that Millennials are lazy, self-entitled and have to be whipped into shape. What they are is different. They grew up with one foot in an analog heritage and the other in a digital future, straddling this daunting divide and enjoying the best of both worlds at the same time. They’re actually great communicators; they just don’t necessarily do it the way that established companies are used to.
This is what makes the whole thing a little tricky. The communication channels we’re currently using were developed (and worked very well) for the previous generation. They loved those newsletter and memos. However, those fine folks are now moving on to the next chilling-by- the-pool, hanging- with-the- grandkids phase of their lives, making way for a fresh new workforce who are extremely amped to contribute to your business, but don’t quite get what you’re saying.
Here’s how you should feed a Millennial’s internal Babel Fish to make sure it poops the right information:
Go Tech! Go Mobile! Go Video!
Push communications like mass emailing and lengthy newsletters don’t work. Millennials use their time effectively and depend on their devices to do so. Your best bet to reach them is to do so with short, snappy messaging and video bites that they can view on the go. Internal social media platforms and innovative apps that meet the needs of your target audience are your friend. Also, earned media such as SEO, allows you to reach them on their terms, as content you produce will come up if they were already searching for it, the opposite of push communications.
Paint a Picture
If the rise in the use of emojis as a legitimate means of communication tells us anything, it’s that the Egyptians had it right all along with those hieroglyphics – why use a whole bunch of words when you can communicate with visuals? Visuals express ideas in a digestible manner. Instead of gagging your employees on dense info, use pictorial elements, infographics and, yes, video. There are countless applications for this tech – company announcements, staff stories, job openings, organisational changes, sales & marketing metrics, etc.
Make it fun!
Yes, work is a serious business. Your employees need to do their part to drive the organisation forward, but who says they can’t have fun while doing so? Everyone wants to be entertained, regardless of the message – create content that tells stories and generates emotional connections.
Don’t Lose Sight of the Big Picture
Remind your Millennial staff members of their place in the organisation and its future frequently. It can be easy to lose sight of the bigger picture when you’re focussing on targeted communication, so make a point of taking a step back now and again. Remaining aware of the higher purpose helps to keep everyone motivated and working together as a team.
Draw from the Well of Knowledge
Your young, dynamic workforce is full of ideas about their work environment, your products/services, potential future products/services and the company as a whole. You need to get in on that action. Provide a place for them to share their ideas – a company forum, a channel on your internal chat software, an app or even a cloud-based service. Don’t lose out on those brilliant ideas and valuable criticisms that could revolutionise the way you do business.
Keep it short and simple! AND RELEVANT. When it comes to internal communication, less is more. Keep your missives brief and to the point. Instead of copying everyone in on a long-winded newsletter that contains all the information, you may want to think about breaking it up into shorter memos that only contain the info each department needs.
Share the Love
The new generation thrives on praise. Scoff all you want, but that’s a good thing – it’s a healthy, integrated psyche that values praise over criticism. After all, what are you running – a SEAL training camp or a business? If someone does well or achieves something cool, make a bit of a fuss. Sometimes a pat on the back is all it takes to pave the way to even more amazing developments.
Ask and You Shall Receive
The simplest and most direct way to figure out how to communicate with your staff is simply this: ask them. Have a short, informal meeting (no PowerPoint slides or laser pointers!) about internal comms improvement and ask them how they’d like to receive it. It’s as easy as that.
Still not quite sure how to feed that blasted metaphorical Babel Fish? HolyCow has the care of your adaptable communication strategy down to a science. Let’s Talk.