Generation Y – Reinventing the Way We Communicate

Those of us born between 1980 to 1995 are commonly referred to as Generation-Y.  To be honest, I think the name N-Gen (Net Generation) is more befitting.  We are certainly addicted to the internet; we grew up with it, so it comes naturally to us.  As we begin to invade the workforce, there is a noticeable shift towards a more open style of communication as well as an increase in the usage of social media.  Whether our predecessors (or even us!) like it or not, this method of communication is no longer a trend, but a solid means of interaction.

Quick Facts:

  • Generation-Y spends at least three hours online each day (this doesn’t include time on our smartphones…yikes)
  • We are extremely adaptable. The progressions in technology throughout our lifetime have been so rapid that we are accustomed to adjusting our methods of communication based on these trends.
  • We use social media to communicate…I don’t mean quick messages here and there; rather, we create and establish relationships with these tools. In turn, these tools change the way we communicate by normalizing methods of communication based on available technology.
  • The line between personal and business is becoming less defined.  It makes more sense (for us) to develop authentic / less-formal relationships with colleagues and business affiliates.
  • Largely in part to the internet, our way of learning is radically different than our parents.  We can find virtually anything online, so we’re accustomed to having an unlimited supply of information readily available at the click of a mouse.  As a result, our brains have been trained to multi-task and cross-process this information rapidly via virtual tools, leaving us with the expectation of instant gratification when obtaining information.

Given these characteristics, there are implications for creating professional development programs to keep us engaged.

To start, many great ideas come from the community we are involved in, not simply selected thought leaders. Moving from a lecture format to a collaborative experience will energize the learning process and empower us to share and participate to a greater degree.  Webinars are a prime example of a missed opportunity. We are in the 6th / 7th generation and still they have not evolved in their format and focus.

At CommPartners, we recognize the unique challenge this presents.  We understand that associations are driven by member-centric principles and that the distribution of information is paramount. However, we want to ensure our method of delivering information coincides with the collaborative structure of the community. Therefore, we accommodate the growing needs of Generation Y by:

Establishing a Strong Knowledge Community. This virtual page not only hosts a multitude of content, but promotes end-user engagement.  It provides your members with 24/7 access to resources, late-breaking updates, and allows for collaboration.  Let your members take the “reigns” to initiate interaction focused on topics important to them.  This should be the hub for all educational information.

Offering Mobile E-Blasts and Web Events. Why send e-blasts or create virtual courses that don’t support all viewing platforms.  Keep in mind that computers are just one way of accessing this content.  Most business-oriented individuals have smart phones that are just as capable and more accessible than laptops / desktops.

Updating the Webinar Structure. A successful webinar is a joint venture that requires the commitment and attention of speaker(s) and audience.  Quite frankly, participants are tired of merely sitting at their computer and viewing PowerPoint slides accompanied by a mundane speech.  Interaction is key!  Incorporate polls, encourage audience input (via phone and / or text chat), use multimedia, and embed social media tools.  I highly recommend creating a discussion board that is accessible to participants before, during, and after the event.

Creating Self-Paced Learning Modules. Sometimes live-learning doesn’t always make sense.  Understand that individuals are unique, so is their preferred learning style.   Consider self-paced courses that incorporate games, require responses, and demand end-user participation.  This engagement will keep participants focused, motivated, and interested in self-paced, virtual education.

The ability to adapt to this new generation and create innovative technology that caters to the way they receive information is now an essential entity.  The more we understand the mentality behind the way Generation Y communicates, the better we can prepare for the future of our industry.

In what ways are you and your organization making adjustments as a direct result of the learning style of Generation Y?

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