How and Why to Connect with Generation Y

Today we have a guest post from Steve Gavatorta of www.Gavatorta.com.  As I have often said, your sales motivation and sales success depend greatly on your commitment to keep learning and gleaning from a number of resources and voices.  Enjoy Steve’s post!

Are you ready? Generation Y is hitting the workforce. Also known as Millennials, Echo Boomers and the Digital Generation, Gen Y was born between 1980 and 1994 and are now becoming part of the workforce. Whether you’re managing them, working with them or selling to them, you’ve got to successfully interact with them. Working with Gen Y isn’t optional.

You know you need to communicate with them, but how? You must learn the art of connecting and interacting with them to maximize success – and they must learn to do the same with you.

T&D Magazine reported that when asked, “Does Senior Management Encounter Problems Communicating with Any of the Following Employee Groups?” Gen Y was ranked #1, by 19% of respondents. The second-place group, Hispanics, came in at 8% — Gen Y was over twice that of the second-place group.

This survey, coupled with the experiences that I’ve garnered interfacing with a wide variety of managers, confirms the difficulty that they have communicating with Gen Y. It doesn’t have to be this way. Successfully interacting with Gen Y involves raising your awareness of the basic human communication methods, which really aren’t all that different from generation to generation.

Yes, Gen Y grew up in a different time, are more skilled in technology and like communicating online and via text messages. This may affect communications, but by bridging this generational gap you will uncover diamonds in the rough, including techno savvy people who will ultimately boost your business.

To break through the barrier, you must raise your awareness of the specific communication styles of the people with whom you interact with. There is no magic formula — you just have to realize that people are unique and that working with them may take more effort. Gone are the days of “my way or the highway” management.

Communicating with staff and colleagues today needs an approach tailored to each individual based on their communication style. In doing this – by treating each person as one worthy of your effort – you’ll achieve a critical competitive advantage and set an imitable example that creates a mutually-beneficial relationship.

There are five practical steps that you can use to help you better communicate with Gen Y. Each step builds upon the previous one to create a self-reinforcing cycle that will improve your relationships with Gen Y, as well as friends, colleagues, clients and employees.

1. Establish and build trust – This step is an important one for everyone you interact with, not just Gen Y. It is the foundational element of any successful relationship, and the success of your relationships is tied directly to the breadth and depth of trust established. Be true to your word, keep your promises and do what you say you will. Be trustworthy, as well as trusting.

2. Take the initiative and show empathy– Walking in someone’s shoes always helps to establish trust, because when you see things from their perspective, you’re showing that you value them. Take the initiative and try and understand them. Then you’ll understand why they do what they do, as well as set an example to be followed.

3. Listen and ask questions – The best way to show empathy is to ask questions and truly listen to their answers. The key is to ask sincere questions, those that get the other person talking. Don’t ask closed questions that can be answered with a “yes” or a “no,” but questions that require thoughtful responses. Then be quiet and listen; you’ll be surprised by what you learn.

4. Observe and adapt to behavior – Working with Gen Y requires heightened awareness, which is a skill you can use when interacting with anyone and simply means observing others’ behavior and adapting accordingly. If you are highly talkative and they’re not, don’t overwhelm them with your extroverted approach. If they are risk averse and fear change, then nurture their willingness to take risk or deal with change rather than forcing them into change.

5. Communicate openly – Trust is built through open and effective communication. “Open” means a back-and-forth conversation rather than a monologue, and “effective” means communicating in the manner and style of the person with whom you’re speaking. With the combination of openness and effectiveness, you’ll be able to build the foundation for trust, and ultimately an effective relationship.

Some steps may feel defensive and unlike your usual communication style; they may feel like you’re giving away power or the upper hand. Work to remove your ego from the process and remember that you are trying to accomplish things with or through this person. The end result is what truly matters.

I’m not suggesting that you put up with disrespectful or unacceptable behavior, which should never be tolerated. But it’s critical that you’re able to differentiate bad behavior from generational differences. Using the above steps will help you make that distinction and communicate better with Gen Y – and anyone with whom you interact. If you do this you’ll develop the path for better relationships, greater sales, improved leadership and overall improved results.

Steve Gavatorta is author of The Reach Out Approach: A Communication Process for Initiating, Developing & Leveraging Mutually Rewarding Relationships. He is a consultant, trainer, coach and speaker. He conducts workshops and speaks on the topic of effective communication and how it is a catalyst for personal development, success in sales, management, leadership, team-building and dealing with change. For more information on his capabilities, visit his website www.gavatorta.com. In addition, he can be reached at 813-908-1343 or steve@gavatorta.com.

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