Lately I’ve been inundated with advice and information about “the Millennial generation.” It may be a trendy topic, but sometimes it grates to see a whole generation summed up in 140 characters, or described as if we all belonged to the same club. “Millennials are taking over the workplace – Get inside their heads!” “Get ready to leverage Millennial traits to the benefit of your biz!”
It does get old.
Somehow I think that business people who read this content tend to be market makers, major corporations, and IT types that hire Millennials — not so much members of the generation. There’s a lot of interesting information floating around, but it puts my hackles up when companies use their Twitter handle to refer to a whole generation cavalierly or dismissively. It’s irritating — I suppose in the same way that Baby Boomers might have chafed at being labeled “hippies” en masse, as if they all marched in stoned lockstep, their long, tangled hair reeking of patchouli.
Millennials, I read, tend to hide their many personal interests while at work to keep them in good graces with their employers — so employers should embrace the Millennial generation’s complex self (which includes multiple personas) tapping their traits for the benefit of the company. I guess the goal is to make this generation feel like they can be themselves without the expectation of penalty from an older management team. Doesn’t that seem condescending? Should you have to cajole or placate a whole generation in order to get good work out of them?
I get the idea — it’s good to free up the creative power of talented people to help businesses succeed, it just seems to me that there is a more sensitive way to discuss a generational shift than most of what I’m seeing. Who wants to be spoken of in a public forum as having a mind that has to be cracked open and examined ad nauseum? I would suggest opening up the conversation to welcome the complex personality of the Millennial generation as a benefit, not as an unfortunate condition to work around.
In a world of customer relationship management, your employees are your social face — and that social face is going to increasingly belong to a Millennial. If it’s true that we feel repressed in the workplace, I think it’s a fairly logical jump to assume that we’ll be less likely to invite our employers’ brands into daily social media conversations.
The inverse is just as likely to be true — that if this socially dynamic generation with complex personal interests is allowed to be themselves in the workplace, they will find it natural to incorporate their company’s brand into their social media expression. And that is what a company wants, because a younger workforce will keep the brand uppermost in the minds of customers, prospects, and partners.
As a first step toward generational compatibility, it would make sense that whatever CRM tools you use should free your Millennial team members to engage on your brand’s behalf through social platforms. I think younger employees care a lot more about their personal reputation than they care about the company’s reputation. That’s my own opinion, of course; I don’t speak for my generation.
My advice: Befriend your employees. Celebrate the generational shift. Trust them. And earn their trust, (which you won’t do with cavalier, clever tweets and eye-candy editorials). Befriending and building good relationships with your frontline employees, no matter when they were born, is the surest way to earn the goodwill and trust of your customers.
Don’t crush that trust with a thoughtless tweet.