Understanding the Evolution of Organizational Communication as Millennials Become Leaders


McKenzie Brower, Media Relations Specialist, DiversityInc Best Practices

Millennials, commonly defined as the generation born between 1981 and 1997, are often mischaracterized and highly misunderstood by their predecessors. You have probably heard the stereotypes: “Lazy,” “unreliable,” “egotistical,” “unmotivated.” On the whole, these judgments are often overblown and have proven untrue time and again in the modern workplace. An entire generation, one that currently consists of over 75 million people, cannot be generalized by such terms, and it is not uncommon for older generations to be wary of the paths later generations take.

Whether you like “them” or not, however, the Millennial generation is here to stay, especially in the workforce. Their rise into leadership positions will come with many benefits and changes in management style, particularly when it comes to communication. This guide presents an overview of where and how you can expect to see evolution in the workplace as the Millennial generation ages.

1. They prefer digital communication.

This characterization should not be surprising, considering Millennials are well-known as being “digital natives” in fairly constant contact with social media, instant messaging, and e-mail. As more Millennials assume leadership positions, the importance of digital communication in business organizations is certain to grow (more than it already has). Millennial leaders will be more comfortable trying out and adopting new communication technologies, such as instant messaging apps that are geared towards business teams. On the other hand, Millennials also highly value face-to-face communication, so no one should be concerned that personal interaction is going away anytime soon.

2. They understand the importance of personal relationships with customers.

This means Millennial leaders are more likely to make face-to-face interaction and instant messaging core components of their customer service programs. The growing importance of social media to businesses means more customer interaction will take place through social media instant messaging (and on organizational webpages). This is highly beneficial to businesses, because more customers want to feel like they have a personal and easily accessible connection with their favorite companies. Millennial leaders are set to devote more resources to growing their social media presence and creating opportunities for instant channels of conversation with customers and clients.

3. They value diversity and inclusion.

More than any generation before them, Millennials highly value diversity. They are more likely to speak up if they witness injustice happening in the workplace and want to connect with people of different cultures, races, and genders. This means that Millennial leaders are more likely to have diverse teams, and let upper management know if they feel a company’s policy is unfair to any demographic, especially those in traditionally vulnerable, underrepresented populations. This is beneficial to business because it will bring new ideas from multiple intersections of people to the forefront and foster room for unique innovation. With an increasingly globalized society, Millennial leaders will reach out internationally to obtain talent and its resulting broad diversity of ideas. Beyond diversity, Millennial leaders emphasize inclusion initiatives. To Millennials, an inclusive workplace is one in which a group of colleagues comes together to collaborate without attention to job titles or years of experience; everyone is encouraged to comfortably and safely contribute their voice and ideas without restraint or fear of judgment.

4. They prioritize a work-life balance.

Millennials don’t believe in the need to stay chained to the same desk day-in and day-out. They place intrinsic value on living a fulfilling life and want to spend more of it out of the office while remaining productive. Technology is fueling this revolution, especially the development of cloud technology, which allows employees to access their files and data from anywhere. Digital communication as a whole lends itself well to allowing employees to work remotely and remain in contact with the rest of their team from anywhere. Millennials also understand the overhead cost savings that can be had if they allow their employees to work from home some of the time.

5. They use multiple channels of communication.

Millennials understand that when it comes to communication, one size often doesn’t fit all. Because of this, they are much more likely to utilize many different communication methods to interact with their employees, colleagues, and customers. As long as results are up to standard and goals are met, Millennial leaders will be open to different communication styles and work arrangements. This will generally make the workplace more flexible and inviting to people who prefer communicating in different ways than what has been the more traditional, restrictive norm.

6. They are brief, to-the-point.

Millennials don’t like to mince words. They don’t see much point in holding a long, boring, and unproductive meeting, because they don’t like to waste time in efforts that won’t lead to results. This can make them very effective leaders, because they are not inclined to waste their own or anyone else’s time. This is another reason why they are fond of multiple communication methods. Millennial leaders will use whatever method is fastest and most effective for the occasion, whether face-to-face, instant messaging, or e-mail, to get the job done.

7. They prefer collaborative efforts.

The importance of collaboration for Millennials cannot be overstated. Their appreciation for it is evident in popular, new collaborative industries such as crowdfunding, ridesharing, and crowdsourcing. To them, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. This means they are more likely to take everyone’s viewpoints into account and seek out viewpoints from a diverse group of people. These viewpoints are more conducive to growing innovative ideas from a variety of perspectives, which prepares organizations to be trailblazers for future developments, and Millennials stand ready to harness this energy.

The Millennial generation is on track to change the workforce forever. This is especially true in communication, where Millennial leaders are already starting to utilize more technology, inclusion, and flexibility than ever promoted in the traditional workplace. These changes and value shifts have already permeated most aspects of everyday society.

About the Author: McKenzie Brower is a contributing writer and media relations specialist for DiversityInc Best Practices. She writes for an array of human resources and training blogs. A millennial herself, she is a strong supporter of social justice causes and encourages others to have an active voice in promoting equal treatment and opportunity for all.

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