In my not so humble opinion, there is really only one skill in the world of work that trumps all others: communication. Strong communicators almost always get the edge. Not only is it central to everything we do in the workplace, but we tend to gravitate toward people who we like to listen to and away from those we don’t. Here’s the problem: it seems the newer entrants into the workforce are generally even more badder at communicating than most of us is. And we HR folk have an obligation to help them over that hump. Alexia Vernon - author, speaker, coach, trainer, and media personality who specializes in helping organizations grow their young professional workforce – wrote a book that gets at this exactly. In 90 Days 90 Ways: Onboard Young Professionals to Peak Performance, Alexia gives us the essence of getting this unique generation oriented, integrated and productive. So I asked her to share some of her wisdom with us. It’s simple and sound advice. Follow it. And then follow Alexia (@AlexiaVernon).
Although effective communication is the number one global skill companies look for in their recruits, young professionals (Generation Y or Millennials) are typically weak in this area. Their deficit in communication, though, is actually a range of deficits. Young professionals frequently choose the wrong medium for their audience; they use excessive vocalized thinking, i.e., um, you know, so, or like; and perhaps most problematically, they are weak at constructing a well-developed, coherent argument.
Young professionals have had fewer opportunities than any previous generation to hone their face-to-face communication skills. Having been in front of a screen – whether it was a TV, computer, or smart phone – for most of their lives, young professionals need daily opportunities to practice their interpersonal communication, negotiation, conflict resolution, relationship building, and presentation skills.
Here are three easy and effective tactics for helping your young professionals close the gap between where they are as communicators and where you want them to be:
Exchange Communication Preferences and Styles
Effective communication is always about understanding how the people you are communicating with want to receive your information. For most people, it’s not about always choosing to talk, text, or tweet, but having a preference for a particular medium in a particular situation. Talk with your new hires about the different contexts your team communicates in and what each person’s preferences are. Five of the most important areas to cover include:
- Delivering to-do lists and reminders
- Sharing large quantities of information
- Communicating last minute or time sensitive information
- After-hours communication
- Brainstorming or idea generation
And guess what: if you want your hires to understand the importance of being able to communicate via the medium that the person they are communicating with most wants, that means you have to respect their preferences as well.
Keep Communication Audience-Appropriate
The first time your young professionals interact with someone – whether supervisor, peer, upper management, customers, or executives – they are unlikely to know their communication preferences or style. Support them to make the right choices about medium to use, tone to adopt, level of preparation, and level of proofreading that is necessary for effective communication with each particular audience. The more you make this a part of your onboarding, the more adept they’ll be at picking up cues from the other people they come into contact with as time progresses.
Teach Them to Begin with the End in Mind
To support young professionals to strategically organize their thinking, have them make a habit of first identifying what they want the person receiving the message to take away. Having a result in mind – a call to action – helps your employees know what they want to drive home. Then, they can easily work backwards to identify step-by-step what they want to cover from the moment they open their mouths. This process works as well for presentations as it does for everyday professional workplace conversations.
Most young professionals are more familiar—and therefore more comfortable—with impromptu, stream of consciousness social media messaging than substantive face-to-face discourse. This organizing process helps to streamline chaotic thoughts into a coherent message. And we could all benefit from that…
Image Credit: Bindaas Madhavi