The jury is still out on Millennials. Suspended in a string of “are they/aren’t they” articles that have been surfacing almost as long as they’ve been in the workforce, Millennials are still a relatively unknown, unfulfilled resource in the job market.
Some say they’re lazy, others say they’re innovative. I don’t have high hopes that we’ll ever come to a conclusion about them, nor do I think that older generations will ever cease commentary about the younger generations who may one day eclipse them. Even now, somewhere in the world, I’m sure a Millennial is franticly scribbling something about why kids from Generation Z are over-connected, under-socialized robots.
My point is that we can no longer sit and wait around for a consensus to be had about this generation. Whether they’re lazy or innovative, laid back or stressed out, self-serving or community-minded, it’s time to stop asking what they are, and start asking how they can reach their full potential in the workplace.
They’re more connected than any generation previous to them. They have twice as many Facebook friends as any other generation, and they like their communication how they like their visits to the doctor’s office: brief, painless, and preferably without eye contact. Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, and Twitter have all optimized communication through photos, ultra-brief videos, and, of course, 140-character updates. Talking without talking is the Millennial’s preference. So how can this desire for “communication lite” be translated and leveraged to engage interns?
The answer is one that’s been suggested before, and it will be suggested again: communities. For anyone who has observed the Follow Friday trend on twitter, or noted the sheer volume of blog promotions of the popular blogging platform Tumblr can tell you, these Millennials want a large community. They want to see that “Followers” number inch up and up. They want to send a picture of their breakfast to their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and their blog, and they want feedback about that breakfast (Do you guys think I’m getting enough fiber?); in the age of connectivity, Millennials know what they’re doing. If you can show them that you’re as dexterous with community as they are, they’ll be more than willing to engage with you.
In a previous post, I talked about the merits of micro-feedback, a twitter-style method of giving millennial interns constructive advice in a manageable format they already know. Creating a community where your interns can interact, post content, give and receive feedback, and, yes, increase their already expansive reach is the next step after micro-feedback. The popularity of so many social media sites which are overwhelmingly dominated by Millennials is no secret, and using a social networking site to engage interns can be a great way to benefit from the Millennials’ fluidity online.
In addition, Millennials turn to social media more than any other source when looking for advice. Whether it’s a new restaurant to check out, or input on a paper topic, Millennials crowdsource everything. So having a community where millennial interns can interact with not only each other but current full-time employees, contractors, and alumni is essential to creating an environment they’ll take to. A talent community, where interns can share and absorb from all aspects of your organization, is the most functional way to ensure that interns are informed, connected, and satisfied with the means of communication.
Again, we shouldn’t be asking if Millennials are or aren’t useful, but rather what can be done to ensure they reach their full potential. Regardless of your views on Millennials, they’re here to stay, and I guarantee they’ll be actively posting, learning, and engaging with someone. What can you do to make sure that’s you?