Sprechen Sie Emoji? Connecting HR Leaders and the Millennial Workforce

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For a long while, most HR managers would have identified the baby boomer generation as the largest participants in their workforce, closely followed by Gen Xers. The landscape has changed considerably in recent years; Gallup reports that only a third of the oldest members of the baby boomer generation are still in the workforce. The Pew Research Center reports that millennials have now surpassed Gen Xers as the largest segment of the workforce.

While these statistics only prove what leaders likely already see in their own workforce, some still struggle with connecting to the millennial workforce. A generation unlike any other before it, millennials approach work differently. It's up to you to build that bridge to fully engage them within your organization.

Speak Their Language

Emojis, those adorable little characters used in place of words or phrases, are a good way to begin understanding the difference between millennials and prior generations. Millennials grew up in a world where they were able to share quickly on social media, using shorthand text talk and emojis virtually immediately.

This carries over into the workplace, as well. While memos and written documentation is the norm for older generations, millennials are visual and experiential. Instead of reading a long document, they want to see succinct graphic presentations. Instead of hearing about how something is done, they prefer to dig in and learn by doing.

Embracing this shift in communication and learning could be a serious boon to your enterprise. Rather than expecting millennials to adapt, you should work to incorporate their communication style into your own to engage them in new and exciting ways.

No, Really: Emojis

Recently, Coke Puerto Rico embraced the changing forms of communication among millennials by literally using emojis as a way to access their landing page. This technique was remarkably effective, with visits to the site increasing by 600 percent. While this example was part of a marketing campaign to engage younger consumers, organizations can learn from this idea and model their own shift in approach to communication with similar ideals. Coke Brand Manager Andrea Puig says that successful connections can come about when you "explore the simple ideas that come to mind," like the use of emojis.

What does this mean in practice? First, consider changing modes of communication. On a one-on-one basis, or even when sending a message to an entire workforce, you're more likely to engage with millennials through texting, versus calling or emailing, Inc. reports. Just as emojis save the time of typing out full words or emotions, texting is efficient and effective.

Emojis Are Just the Beginning

But what about messages that are too long for texts, or cannot appropriately or efficiently be conveyed through a text or symbol? Look to your intranet or social media options next. Connecting to the millennial workforce means meeting them where they are, by adapting where you are. It's not enough to just have a social media presence, the message also needs to resonate with your young workers for optimal effect.

To engage millennials, create online resources that will stand out to a younger audience. You can do so by employing:

  • Interactive and engaging onboarding and training
  • Two-way communication opportunities like boards and internal articles with open comments sections
  • Pulse-taking polls for issues concerning employees or the organization
  • Gamified experiences where employees earn points and e-awards for participation and achievement
  • Live connection points like online town halls or company Skype sessions
  • Easily searchable and accessible resources for everyday expectations and issues.

Ready to get started? While transformation is never easy, you likely already have the resources you need to move forward in connecting with the millennial workforce: Millennials themselves. Engage them to be a part of the change process and empower them with a stake in designing your workplace of the future. You'll not only enjoy better employee relations and productivity, you'll be laying the groundwork for millennials to occupy their own leadership positions in the future.