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 United States. With 320 million people in the United States, over 58% of them are on Facebook, and approximately 28% 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% of the entire world population!
There are other, less well known apps in use across the world that also dominate over Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram such as WhatsApp (900 million users) and Weibo (600 million users). They’re not quite as common in our culture today, but as you can see, hugely popular across the globe.
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% of all internet connected adults use some form of Social Media in differing degrees. You are likely reading this on LinkedIn, or direct from my Blog site. But no matter how you got here, you more than likely have a Facebook page, and actively look at it weekly.
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 things to read about how inappropriate, or inadvertent posts have impacted peoples lives and their work. From angry ex-employees to company insensitivity, it seems there’s no end to the negatives that can come from Social Media.
But, Social Media has just as many great stories that 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 just wouldn’t have been possible before the advent of Social Media, especially not at the speeds they happen today.
So what? 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 way they worked, 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. The days of reading a monthly newsletter, with all it’s articles and facts just isn’t something they will patiently read. They need information, short, to the point and constant.
Your job as a leader is varied, but one of the most important things you can do is to find the right team and then motivate them to great things. And one of the greatest expectations they have for you is that you keep them informed.
So how does this affect you as a leader? What lessons can be learned from Social Media that will help you 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 as it was becoming popular, 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 allow them 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 for sending the communication 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 read by the right people. Don’t wait for the monthly, or even weekly newsletter cycle. Start sending relevant information as soon as it happens. You’re 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 is coming 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.
What ways have you used Social Medial to communicate with your teams?