How to communicate with a satiated generation?

Aurelija Astrauskė, Executive Director at Adverum

Challenging times have come for leaders and HR professionals. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely changed the rules of the job market, where today it’s not the employers but the employees who dictate the terms. The hybrid work model has become the standard way of working, and to foster teamwork in the office, employers need to do more than just the basics – they should not only motivate and engage employees, but also consider offering additional perks such as providing lunch or even giving a neck massage at the desk.

I’m exaggerating, but let’s agree that the generation of saturated employees appears to be uncertain about their desires. When they themselves are unsure, it becomes difficult for a leader to figure out how to delight them.

Lack of communication

I have often heard leaders express concerns about receiving complaints from employees, such as not finding a particular type of special milk in the office fridge or that the cheese isn’t of a certain flavor or brand.

Listening to such stories, I wonder how things got to such extremes, where things that are not self-evident are no longer valued. And here, I want to throw a stone into the leaders’ garden.

It’s not about the milk or the cheese, but the lack of internal communication that creates a vicious circle. Employees are dissatisfied with “unmet expectations,” and employers perceive it as ingratitude and disloyalty.

Even though it seems that you maintain active internal communication, if you encounter such problems, it means either there’s too little communication or it’s not purposeful enough. The golden rule is that there is never too much communication.

It’s important to communicate not only what the company can offer, its values, work culture, and principles, but also what is expected from employees. This concerns not only professional goals but also community life, office routine, interpersonal relationships, communication culture, and more.

The biggest responsibility lies within managers – team leaders, C-level executives – because employees look up to them the most.

Recommendations for the leaders

1. Regular communication: The communication must be regular. Get colleagues used to your communication: create a tradition to send a concise but clear message, blog post or video message every week at the same time. Regular communication forms a habit not only for the leader to communicate constantly but also for employees to expect information.

 2. Addressing both good and bad: Talk about the good as well as the bad and don’t sugarcoat it. Not everyone can read between the lines so don’t talk about important things in a roundabout way. Of course, there’s no need for bluntness when announcing critical information for the whole company, especially issues important to people’s well-being, but withholding the truth not only won’t get you what you want, it will also be counterproductive. For example, during a challenging period for the company, if you are forced to reduce working hours, do not hide this information from employees. Openly and sincerely share the current situation with the team. This will prevent rumors and encourage the team to focus.

3. Be concise and clear: When communicating, don’t be wordy – people no longer have the time and the skills to endure story subplots until the end of the book. Communicate simply and clearly. I recommend using the rule favored by journalists – speak so that a five-year-old can understand. Avoid international or specific terminology, speak in concise sentences, highlight or separate key points with bullets. Your information should fit in one page or a 1–2-minute video/audio format.

4. Define clear objectives: Any communication, including that of leaders, must have a clear goal. Always identify what you want to achieve with your message: praise the team’s achievements, thank them for their effort, inspire focus on an upcoming challenging project. If leaders themselves don’t know the ultimate communication goal, it will be difficult to communicate it to the employees.

5. Explore new communication formats: When communicating, I also encourage trying out new communication formats. If your employees are a young team, perhaps it’s worth communicating in video format or recording a voice message. On the other hand, you can always ask colleagues how they would prefer to receive information – a daily question with a simple survey is a good way to quickly get colleagues’ opinions or feedback.