google office spaceIf you want to start a business today (and be successful at it), you better learn how to communicate with millennials. Whether you think you like them or not, you’re going to have to work with them, and great work is borne out of mutual respect and understanding.

In my years at the helm of a social media and content marketing firm, I’ve learned a thing or two about working with the younger generation. In an effort to help you prevent pulling out any more of your hair, here are a few things you ought to keep in mind if you want to keep clear lines of communication with your millennial employees.

Don’t pretend. The first and maybe most important piece of advice is don’t bullshit with them. Don’t try to learn the lingo of the Snapchats and memes and whatever else they’re going on about this week. That’s their thing, and good for them, let them have it!

You have your own thing and you don’t need to be afraid of seeming “uncool for showing it. I’ve found that millennials value diversity of opinion and even if they flat out disagree with what you have to say, they appreciate being able to hear different perspectives. And contrary to what many articles may have you think, I have found that they do value the perspective and ahem, wisdom that comes with age.

They also appreciate straight talk. If you have something to tell them, be straight with them. Again, despite what you may have read, they are not gentle special little snowflakes that will melt away as soon as you say something negative. Being direct makes you seem trustworthy. If they feel like they can trust you at a personal level, you’ll get a lot more out of them on a professional one.

Let them play golf (or do whatever else they like). I have a member of my staff who likes to play golf and wanted to play in a league that requires him to leave early once a week. No problem. Ten years ago, golf was a weekend deal. Today, I am happy to offer my employees flex time in order to make time for the other things that are important to them in their lives. If it helps high-quality work get done in a timely manner and encourages loyalty to the company, how can it be bad?

Offer coaching/honest advice. Finally, I’ve found that millennials are looking to be coached. While of course good work should be praised, you should also go beyond that for those who are looking for deeper life and career advice. You may not want to turn yourself into an automaton, walking around dispensing sage advice on the hour, but let them know that you are available and happy to talk with them on issues not directly related to their work.

Ultimately, building great working relationships with millennials is about approaching them as individuals. Though they share common characteristics that previous generations didn’t have so much of, that doesn’t make them a monolithic group. Like peers of my generation, I’ve worked with millennials of all stripes. In conclusion: be flexible, be yourself, and be straightforward. Still have some nagging concern? Get in touch with me here.

photo credit: via photopin (license)

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