Employers Say Reaching Millennials Is Tough

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North American companies are twice as likely to report difficulty reaching Millennials than any other employee group, according to a survey of more than 2,500 senior HR and training executives by Novations Group, a global consulting organization based in Boston.

Asked if their senior management encounters difficulties communicating with a dozen employee categories, 18.9 percent of respondents reported problems with GenY/Millennials compared with just 8 percent for next group, Hispanics.

“This is yet another finding that employers don’t feel comfortable dealing with their younger employees,” said Novations Executive Consultant Michelle Knox. “It may be hard to make comparisons among groups of different kinds, but the survey certainly tells us management’s perception: that Millennials are a challenge.”

Does your senior management encounter problems in communicating with any of the following employee groups?

  • GenY/Millennials, 18.9 percent
  • Hispanics, 8.0 percent
  • African Americans, 7.5 percent
  • Women, 7.0 percent
  • Offshore employees, 7.0 percent
  • GLBT, 5.5 percent
  • Older employees, 5.0 percent
  • Asians, 4.0 percent
  • Physically challenged, 3.0 percent
  • Recent immigrants, 2.5 percent
  • Native Americans, 2.5 percent
  • Ex-pat employees, 2.0 percent

“If management sees a problem, then there’s a problem,” observed Knox. “But Millennials are getting a bad rap, I think. Management is uneasy not just because they’re a challenge and new, but also because there are so many of them, unlike, say, LGBT or Native American employees.”

Nevertheless, there are distinctions between Millennials and preceding age groups, Knox said. “Whether it’s multimedia technology, corporate vision, CEO charisma or motivational training, under-30 employees aren’t easy to impress. It’s not that they’re cynical than that they’ve cultivated a healthy skepticism.”

In communicating with Millennials, Knox advises management avoid gimmicks and not to expect tried-and-true ways of communicating to work. “Instead, management should realize that younger employees are just like every generation before them, just a bit more jaded. Instead, management should try to be down-to-earth. Take part in a two-way discussion, and don’t try to wow them with a fancy presentation. Don’t be afraid to turn the meeting over to your team, leverage their know-how and take your own notes. Use less technology, and eliminate it all together for meetings with fewer than 50 employees.”

Millennials can be a restive audience for traditional training, warned Knox. “They don’t like to listen passively to a long management presentation. As one Millennial expressed it recently, ‘Can’t I just talk to the guy next to me?’” 

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