Volume 81: Communicating with Millennials

This article continues our series discussing inter-generational communication.

Hello,IMG959595 Corrugated Industry!

My name is Kalman Kreitman, and I’ve been Director of Operations here at O&A for about 6 years. I also lead the O&A recruiting effort in the paper industry.

Why is the corrugated industry hearing from me, then? Well, I fit the Millennial definition pretty well: I was born in 1990, and treat my phone as if it is part of my being.

Let’s start with the parameters: Millennials were born between ~1983 and ~1996. As the youngest Millennials are now 23, most of us are either solidly in the workforce, or fully cemented into our parents’ basements at this point. College and high school kids are not millennials, so stop blaming us for them.

Anyone that has spent any time on the internet knows what Boomers think of Millennials, and it’s not pretty. Per the stereotypes, every Millennial is an entitled, lazy, worthless snowflake that has failed to launch. On top of that, we spend our weekends deciding which age-old industry to kill off next.

This is all true.

But, it’s true in the same way that it’s true that every Baby Boomer out there is a greedy, misogynistic curmudgeon that’s afraid of their iPhone and any technology that might (gasp) make their lives easier.

Stereotypes are worthless.

The Greatest Generation said the same types of things about Boomers, and Boomers complained about similar things in regards to the Greatest Generation. I’m sure cavemen were upset that the younger generation made their pointy rocks into spears, instead of just whacking animals over the head like dignified cave-people.

This Battle of the Generations has been around as long as humans have, and it’s indicative of progress.

But, because of this impasse between what Millennials actually are vs. what older generations think we are, (and the understanding that my audience here is primarily Boomers, so I’m fighting a losing battle), let’s just jump into the best way to communicate with Millennials and why.

But First, The Internet:
The internet is the single greatest and worst invention in the history of our species. It allows for unprecedented access to information and each other (and information about each other?).

From the early days of painful dial-up, to today’s smart phones, Millennials have had access to anything, and anyone, for most of our lives.

Where past generations had to spend hours and hours scouring over books for school projects, I had Google and Ctrl-F to find whatever quote I needed.

If my grandparents wanted to communicate with family members, they sent letters, or hoped they happened to catch them on the phone while they were home. I send a text, an email, a snap, a Facebook message, or any of a few hundred other platforms for contacting people across the globe instantaneously.

If past generations wanted to find a group of similarly-minded people, they hoped their church had a group, or that they bumped into the right person at the hardware store or university. I spend a few minutes on Reddit looking for the group that can help me with my DIY project or a group to talk about my favorite cancelled TV Show, Firefly.

It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, though.

This ability to find like-minded people has also created an incredible echo chamber, where the exchange of ideas is often limited to ideas each of us agrees with. Because of the internet’s influence, many of us don’t discuss politics (or anything) in a productive manner anymore. We’re right, and the other side HATES AMERICA, as if anything is actually that simple.

Good or bad, the internet is single biggest factor in making Millennials what we are today.

Communicating with Millennials:
For starters, this is my experience. There are undoubtedly many Millennials out there that think differently about our generation. (Which kind of proves what I’m about to say, but let’s move on…)

If you want to speak to Millennials, connect with the individual. The way you manage and approach one member of your team will not work for everyone.

Get to know the person and what buttons to push to motivate us forward. For some, it’s advancement and prestige. For others, they need to be passionate and prideful in their work. For others still, we’re just working to pay for our next vacation and early retirement.

Personally, I always assume that I’m right. As a result, I occasionally need to be bluntly told that I’m being a dumbass, so that I can go back and figure out what I did wrong on my own. Others need to be shown exactly where the mistake was (gently).

Also, don’t lecture to the room: I’m a child of the internet and smart phones. As an adult, I have severe ADHD, and I stopped paying attention to your lecture of a meeting half an hour ago. Engaging the individual, even in a crowded room, is the key to communicating with millennials.

If you find that you’re having trouble communicating with millennials, you have two options: you can whine about how this generation is worthless and keep doing what you’re doing (which, per Einstein, is the definition of insanity). Or you can adapt to communicate up and down the generational ladder.

So, if you want to communicate with Millennials: don’t talk to us, talk to me.

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