Gen Y Not? Three Tips for Tapping the Genius of Millennials in Communications
By Shirley Engelmeier, CEO, InclusionINC
Like many other business sectors, the PR and communications industry’s workforce demographics are increasingly complex with four generations sharing space and work. Interestingly in a digital and knowledge-based age, the youngest cohort in the office right now has a disproportionate influence because of the agility with which they find and deploy information.
These are the “Millennials” or “Gen Y” who were born from 1980-1999 and they seem most genetically engineered to meet the demands of the new global business model. They have been raised in an era in which, not only can they play well in the sandbox, they prefer to do so. While Baby Boomers struggle to turn on the computer or access their email remotely – Millennials were born playing with iPhones and are facile in the digital ecosystem.
The communications industry, more so than others, is one that relies on creativity and innovation – often achieved through collaborative efforts in which all voices around the table are heard. What really is needed in this setting is the change from the traditional “command and control” management to a model that asks questions rather than dictates answers.
This adaptability and willingness to change in order to accommodate the DNA of Gen Y can lead to significant and measurable business benefits and results – higher engagement, retention, innovation and productivity at all levels. When ideas are shared, so is success. This focus on “teamwork” and collaboration, while devised to nourish the Gen Y mentality, is one that is practical and helpful for workers from every generation, given the business benefits it delivers.
Encouraging this inclusive atmosphere throughout communications organizations and diversity in PR is not new (as can be seen by my look at the issue a few months ago here on CommPRO.biz, as well as in this study by the Institute for Public Relations several years ago) is urgent in the new digital business setting and can lead to better business results, enthusiasm and success. To help get your organization on track, use these three tips:
- Educate the workforce on the differences between diversity and inclusion. Diversity and inclusion are terms often used interchangeably but that lead to very different outcomes. Diversity describes the differences between people, while inclusion is a call to action: it’s about getting every employee involved. Inclusion extends beyond the act of hiring diverse employees and leads to a workplace culture in which all employees are engaged in the work of the organization, have opportunities to express their opinions and can participate in daily conversations about the business.
- Retire Command-and-Control “Ivory Tower Management.” Certain management practices tend to stifle, rather than drive, productivity and innovation. When all decisions are made at the highest levels, for example, lower-level employees might feel like their opinions and ideas are being controlled rather than heard. Creating an environment in which everyone has the freedom and comfort to think and approach problems in their own way can give employees a sense of belonging that will lead to better creativity and engagement across the company.
- Identify and reward inclusive behaviors. Employees want to be commended for their good work. It is important that leaders praise employees and supervisors who demonstrate inclusive behaviors. Acknowledging and incentivizing workers who exhibit and promote the inclusive culture of the workplace is one of the best ways to ensure that behavior spreads throughout the entire organization.
Shirley Engelmeier has been an Inclusion and Diversity Strategist and Consultant for more than 18 years. Prior to that, Shirley held senior management and HR positions in global consumer product organizations such as Brown & Williamson and Frito-Lay where she pioneered Diversity and Inclusion initiatives that had a major impact on improving employee engagement, retention and productivity. Shirley has consulted with Fortune 1000 companies as well as emerging enterprises on Inclusion and Diversity Initiatives across a broad range of industries, including SuperValu, ESPN, Denny’s/Advantica, Knight Ridder, R.R. Donnelley, TRW, Prudential, The Charlotte Observer, First Union and Nations Bank (Bank of America), COX Communication, BP Pipelines and others.