By Kate Rabe
While they have been around for years, millennials seems to be all the buzz in the workplace these days. What do millennials want in the workplace? What do they want from work in general? How are they different from other generations? And, the most common question this author has heard, how does one even communicate with millennials? To answer these questions, it is important to start with some basics.
Just like every generation, millennials have their own set of characteristics. They do tend to think, listen, and learn different than generation X; however, this can also be said about baby boomers versus generation X, or traditionalists versus baby boomers. Come to think of it, there are times when people question others’ way of doing things when they are the same age.
This is the first time there has been four generations in the workplace. According to a recent Gallup poll, the average retirement age is 62. This is up, as the average age was holding steady at 60 for the past 10 years. However, as one may notice in their company, it is not uncommon to still be working or have employees who are in their late 60s or even early 70s. And just to make it even more of a challenge, in the pool and hot tub industry, a lot of a company’s seasonal support staff likely falls into the generation Z category, which means a store owner or shop manager may be presented with an even greater challenge of managing five generations within one organization. So, where does one begin with respect to overcoming these challenges?
Now you are talking
Communication—this one word is very important to every part of a company. In fact, effective communication is key in almost every aspect of daily life. Without it, people become disconnected, begin to make assumptions, and have to put in a lot more effort than necessary just to get some of the most basic tasks completed. That said, where does good communication really begin?
The first thought might be to jump to talking—using words to express what one wants or feels and talking about how he/she is going to achieve what they are setting out to do. However, what if this thought process was examined from a different approach and, instead, it started with listening?
Think about how many instances over the course of a day that one actually takes the time to just listen. Not to just respond to the person who is speaking, but listening to understand and without interrupting, advising, reassuring, judging, analyzing, criticizing, or diagnosing. This list can go on of course, but humans sometimes have a hard time practicing active listening.
Proper listening requires full concentration and understanding—and then actually remembering what was being said rather than jumping to the next topic or making sure the conversation quickly steers back into the direction one wishes it to.
To fully understand this, one should think about the last conversation they had with someone and ask themselves: “Did I actually listen to what was being said to me? Would I be able to properly communicate it back?” By answering these questions, some might realize they are not the best active listener, which is okay because not everyone is. For instance, after having a one-on-one conversation with a co-worker or boss, or even while speaking during a meeting and someone repeats what they heard and the first thought that comes to mind is: “That’s not what I said at all. Were they even listening to me?”
When people begin to recognize active listening is a skill everyone needs to improve upon, it can be surprising how much more aware and proactive everyone is and, as a result, everyone quickly becomes more effective communicators.