If you want to be an effective leader to a new generation of workers, you had better become Social Media savvy, and quickly. The old forms of communication will still work for some, but for the folks just coming out of college, you are going to have to wield a new set of tools. Knowing how social media has shaped expectations and the speed of communication will be key. And it starts with understanding how prevalent these tools really are.
In the world of social media, Twitter and Facebook are king in the US (more than 58 percent of Americans are on Facebook, and 28 percent are on Twitter). Worldwide, Facebook is also the leader with over 1.6 Billion (yes, that’s a ‘B’) monthly active users. That’s 22 percent of the entire world population! Likely, the fact that you’re reading this blog increases the chances that you participate in social media in some form or fashion. According to a Pew Research Center study, 74 percent of all internet connected adults use some form of Social Media (you were likely directed here from LinkedIn or my Blog site).
To be sure, all of this ‘screen time’ is impacting the way people think and act. And not all of it’s good. Just google ‘social media horror stories’ and you’ll have nearly 3 million accounts of how inappropriate or inadvertent posts have impacted peoples’ lives and their jobs. From angry ex-employees to company insensitivity, it seems there’s no end to the negatives that can come from Social Media.
Fortunately, there are just as many stories where social media made things possible that just couldn’t have happened in the past. Who can forget the awareness and money raised for ALS, or the way social media was used to help reconnect families after the major earthquake in Japan. These things wouldn’t just have happened before the advent of Social Media, at least not at warp speed.
So what does all of this have to do with leadership you might be asking? Let me explain.
As the Baby Boomer generation starts to retire at a rapid pace now (there are over 10,000 boomers retiring every day), the Millennials have taken over as the largest workforce population. With over 75 million workers ranging in age from 18-34, they are now the predominant worker, and thus have new expectations.
Just like us in the late Boomer/Generation X generation, they bristle under the expectations that things should continue as they always have been. How many of us would prefer that things were still done on a typewriter or love the smell of cigarette smoke from the office next to you? Nobody likes change, but even more, nobody likes to be told to keep things the same either.
We can’t expect that younger workers will continue to accept things to stay the same as well. Just 10 short years ago, the Baby Boomer generation still outnumbered the rest of the workforce, and the expectations they had for their leaders was pretty well established. But that’s officially over. Today’s younger generation has a much higher expectation for information, transparency, and mobility. They are used to constant information flow and expect that information to come in smaller bites. A monthly newsletter, with its articles and facts, isn’t something they will patiently read; they need information that is short, to the point, and constant.
Your job as a leader is varied, but one of the most important things you can do is find the right team and motivate them to great things. And one of the greatest expectations they have for you is that you keep them informed. How can you leverage social media to help keep the workforce engaged and active as valuable team members? Here are a few things you should consider.
- Keep it short. Tweets are limited to 140 characters (at least for now). When I first came across Twitter, I couldn’t for the life of me, understand how anyone would want to read something 140 characters long. But I found out that 140 digits was enough to get a small piece of information across, and if it wasn’t, a link to the rest of the information was an easy fix. You need to keep your communications to the team the same way. Give them the basics, and include ways to read more if they’re interested, or when they have time. Don’t assume they want to, or have time to, read the 5 paragraph update you provided.
- Make communications enticing. In today’s world, a good title is worth gold. For example, with over 1 million people posting articles on LinkedIn regularly, how can your article stand out from the sea of other posts? It all has to do with how well you attract the reader. The same thing goes for your communications. Sending out an email with a subject line of ‘Status Update’ is much less likely to get them to actually read it than a more descriptive title like “3 Things You Need to Know Before Friday.’ Which one are you more likely to read? Exactly.
- Keep the information flowing. The days of the monthly newsletter are over. Before the days of social media, sending out a newsletter to your employees or customers was a smart move. They got new information, and you had a platform that was more likely to be read than a letter. But newsletters are not resonating anymore. Blog posts, with links driven by tweets and other social media tools, are much more likely to get read, and by the right people. Don’t wait for the monthly, or even weekly newsletter cycle. Start sending relevant information as soon as it happens. Your team will thank you!
- Be transparent. If you haven’t noticed lately, there seems to be a real distrust of ‘insiders’ in the country. Much of that distrust comes from the younger generations who have found our political system to be full of cronyism and division. By default, many now see the same thing of corporate America. They view those in the most senior leadership roles as being opaque and out for themselves. Being transparent means being forthcoming with the good and the bad, and even being willing to share your own mistakes and faults. It’s uncomfortable, but necessary if you want to reach your younger audience.
As we continue to see a reduction in our older workforce, and folks entering the workforce have new expectations, it’s up to you as a leader to engage and keep them informed. If you think that you can do things like they’ve always been done, you are doomed to see high turnover and increased employee dissatisfaction.
Take a lesson from social media, and communicate to your team in ways that resonate with them. And if you don’t use or understand social media, get engaged. You’ll be amazed at the things you’ll learn.