Category Archives: Millennials

Never Stop Learning — Ever!

When the opportunity to go “back to school” for the MBA I always wanted became reality, I didn’t quite know how to react. It had been a while since I was in a classroom. I wondered what it would be like to be a student again.  And, just how difficult would that Mercy College “TURBO” program be.  Five nights a week and all day Saturday for four weeks is grueling, especially with a Long Island commute.

imagesBut, I love it.

Being in a learning environment again is inspiring.  The first class had me hooked. It’s something that had been missing over the past few years and I didn’t realize it until I was back in the classroom and saw what my professors and fellow students had to offer.  I know now that it will be something that I continually pursue whether in college or at another corporation.

We’ve all heard how important “training” is to corporations.  “We have a strong commitment to training our people” is a sentiment that can be found in most annual reports.  But what’s that “training” all about?  Mandatory ethics training that’s about as inspiring as…. well, you know.  Classroom training for the chosen few.  Online training for the rest of us.

What’s missing from many corporate training programs, from my perspective, is the stimulation you get from being part of a true learning culture.  I would argue that the degree to which businesses, big and small, can integrate a spirit of learning in their own environments would help corporate commitments to training get beyond mere platitudes.

Regular classes started earlier this month – a mixture of traditional and online.  Like everything else, some are more interesting and easier than others.  But understanding the business environment with a fresh lens is priceless!

 

 

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Face it. You Are Addicted!

Having neck pain?   Walking into people on the sidewalk?  Experienced a near miss crossing the street?

img_0792Sometimes I think the “DON’T WALK” signs should read “STOP TEXTING.”  We are not only more connected than ever, many of us have a tinge of “connectivity addiction.”

The more devices we have, the happier we are. In fact, we have more devices and spend more time on them than any other device prior. With computers, laptops, television and radio, the on/off button was something regularly used. Not so with our devices today. Always-on is a badge of honor. And who doesn’t feel the onset of anxiety setting in when the juice runs low or heaven forbid, runs out?

We think we are “connected” because we are “always-on.” We see a tweet, a post or an update as soon as it occurs from friends, family, colleagues and even world leaders. But are we? Are we truly connected to what matters most to us? Moreover, do we really want to be that connected? Is it healthy? Is it productive? Am I really more informed or better off because I can share a photo of my pancakes, the skyline, a dog or cat or whatever I fancy right now?

Anectdotal evidence suggests there are cracks in the connectivity dream. In some circles, disconnecting is the new black. And yes, you guessed it, there’s even an app for that.

Companies must better understand the dynamic between man, woman and child and their devices. And we all need to be connected in different ways. Real-time data gives us the ability to get more of what we want and less of what we don’t want and do so when and where we want to receive it. Today, uber relevance reigns. There is simply too much competing for our attention. I ask again, to what end? Is all this connectivity leading to better, more targeted, more relevant communications?

The Wisdom of Lester Wunderman

lesterI learned a valuable lesson from Lester Wunderman, the father of direct marketing, years ago: “Just because you know my name doesn’t mean you know me,” he said. Taking that a step further, it also doesn’t mean I want it now (even though all the data suggests it) or I want to do it with my phone.

In the world where we can access any and everything with a swipe or command, a “connectivity gap” is emerging, and it is getting in the way of communications that really matter to consumers, businesses, employees and even our friends.

We think we have communicated something because we just “sent it” or “posted it.” But unintended consequences are real. Delivering bad news in a text doesn’t work. Un-vetted blogs, tweets, posts (light on facts), do more to un-inform, than inform. Hashtag photo opportunities too often backfire. And the list goes on.

There simply is no substitute for well-conceived communications strategies that close the connectivity gap and free us from our connectivity addiction. Integrating new media technologies and an understanding of how social media channels wield their influence are part of it. But make no mistake, nothing happens without a plan and a commitment to stick to it.

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Put on Your Weekend Face! Its Impact on Employee Communications

Once considered less glamorous in the corporate communications repertoire, employee communications has new found respect in the C-suite.

imagesExecutives have consistently informed me of their interest in placing more emphasis on ensuring employees at all levels and locations know the firm’s strategy and direction, important successes, innovations, research, and the list goes on. They realize a common understanding of what drives the organization, shapes its world view and guides its business decisions, will increase the chances of marketplace success. At the same time, they are baffled by how little employees know about their firm’s business beyond their individual responsibility and express weariness over why.

So, I did a little digging and found this…

“A job is something to do in between weekends.”* This is how millennials and generations younger view employment. Whoa!

That mindset, combined with blurry lines between what’s “internal” and what’s “external” (fueled by a 24/7 news cycle), have big implications for how organizations keep an increasingly younger workforce informed.

images-textThe job/weekend mindset

Today’s aspiring workforce grew up living for the weekend. Planned playdates, professionally-run birthday parties, destination weddings are just some of the childhood/young adult norms that reinforce the high value they place on weekend fun.

While hard work is in their DNA, it’s there for a different reason than it was for prior generations—to finish the task at hand and get on with the fun. I see it with my own family members who work in banking and finance. They put in long hours, weekends too. But their weekends are jam-packed with parties, mini-vacations, “tickets” and so much more. “Work hard, play harder” is an apt mantra.

The implications for employee communications are many. Take a page from the popular consumer communications playbook and start with the big “R” for relevance. Don’t waste time on news millennials and generations younger can’t use to do their jobs faster, smarter, or better. They want to know what is relevant to them, now.

Corporate updates from other offices or business units, as important as they are to the organization’s success, will break through only if done in a way that means something to an employee’s individual accountability. So, a company-wide email blast doesn’t cut it. Depending on the goal, treat employee communications as you would a consumer communications campaign. Have clear-cut objectives from the start. Craft a message that resonates. Segment communiques to like-minded groups—management, influencers; sales team, account teams, support staff; etc. Above all, don’t be boring—in content, channel or media.

I once approached an HR exec about rewriting the “employee handbook” into an entertaining guide that imparted all the relevant facts, akin to Virgin Atlantic’s flight safety instructions. I even volunteered to write it! I received a blank stare. Millennials and generations younger want to be entertained when they consume content—even corporate communications. Use videos, images and infographics; and, if you have all the important information available as an app, all the better!

Blurry lines

Thanks to the 24/7 news, citizen journalists and The Rise of Fishbowl Journalism (see prior post), the holy grail of corporate communications—tell your employees first—is getting harder, if not, impossible. Big news, i.e., leadership changes, acquisitions, notable hires, important business contracts, etc., invariably leaks before employees receive the official word.

images3What you say internally must play externally. Though it can be done—with strong leadership, a clear purpose and uniform understanding and respect for both—keeping corporate news confidential is hard. A simple Facebook post with a photo of a soon-to-be launched product, for example, is all it takes to blow up that established communications timeline.

Therefore, reaching employees with the corporate news first, may mean shorter initial messages, scant of detail. A long form message, following the external communications blitz, may add details and greater context. In addition, local managers and team leaders may play an increasingly important role in the internal communications process. After receiving a more complete brief, they can address the news in team meetings and answer questions on the spot.

The new face of employee communications is young—and getter younger; busy—at work and at play; social—extremely social; and mobile—incredibly mobile. Why not give them the opportunity to discover corporate news on their own time and in their own way? Employees are always-on consumers; employers need to treat them that way!

*“Myths about Millennials” by Cam Martson, About Money

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