Working with Millennials

Nozomi Morgan


The term “Millennials” is being kicked around more and more frequently these days. In 2016, millennials are surpassing the baby boomers as the largest living generation in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center. This means that by 2025, they will make up 75 percent of the U.S. workforce, the U.S. Department of Labor calculates. 

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Millennials, who right now range in age from 20 to 35, are our next generation leaders. 

In an environment where workers waste an average of 17 hours per week clarifying their communication with other employees, according to an SIS Research International study a few years back, it’s obvious that there’s no room for widespread misunderstanding and miscommunications with millennials.

That same SIS study calculates that companies lose more than $5, 000 per employee per year due to inefficient communication. Poorly written emails, unclear verbal communication and less-than-stellar commitment to being truly understood adds up over the course of a year. 

To put this in perspective, let’s look at one typical car assembly plant with 5, 000 employees—5, 000 people x $5, 000 = loss of $25 million annually.

If that isn’t alarming enough, consider the SIS conclusions that the cumulative cost per worker per year is $26, 041 due to productivity losses resulting from communication barriers. At that rate, the United States and United Kingdom experience a total annual loss of $37 billion simply due to employee misunderstandings.

These numbers alone make it very clear that communication with millennials — soon to be the majority of our workforce — is not only important, it is vital to our economy.  

As this group of people grew up, technology played an intimate and impactful role in their development. Many of them started using cell phones in their teens or younger and can pick up technology skills quickly. Stereotypes suggest that they are constantly on social media, they want work that not only pays the bills but also is meaningful, and that they live for instant gratification.

A recent survey by SAP SuccessFactors, however, discredits some of that stereotype. The survey sought answers to questions like: Are millennials less patient than other workers? Do they expect to make it to the top in no time? Do they demand more pay than other generations? 

And the survey concluded that what millennials say they want is much different than what executives expect that millennials want. Strikingly, members of this generation aren’t all that different in their goals and desires.

Communicating with millennials is essentially the same challenge as communicating with anyone. Although a millennial might choose to send a text message where a baby boomer might choose to pick up the phone, the demand for clarity is the same.

In my experience working with businessmen and women, barriers to communication most often don’t have as much to do with age as they have to do with our penchant toward making assumptions. 

For years, I have used interpersonal and intercultural intelligence tools and communication systems with my clients. 

Essentially, most of us mean well and want to perform well. The breakdown occurs when we assume that other people think and operate the same way as we do. ν

Text by NOZOMI MORGAN, CEO and Chief Executive Coach, Michiki Morgan Worldwide, Mableton, Georgia

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