When I joined Mobilize last year, I was the only non-millennial. I had worked with millennials before but was never this outnumbered.
My generation (Gen X) was raised differently. Divorce rates had tripled in the 70’s and we were left on our own at an early age. This led to good survival skills, but poor self-actualization.
So my work style was different. I could be brusque and results-obsessed. I got frustrated easily. I had work / life balance issues. And I was overwhelmed by all the apps.
But I shared something with my younger colleagues: we were purpose-driven and collaborative. We were all working towards the same ends. I just needed to change my approach.
Organizations are facing the same dilemma: the old approach to building members is not only ineffective with millennials and Gen Z (born between 1996 and 2010), it makes things worse.
Traditional marketing is despised. Content shouldn’t cost money. One-to-many communication is ignored. To survive, organizations must fundamentally change.
What matters most? Human connection. Working smarter. Seeking a new world order driven by meaning, intelligent tech and authentic connections.
How do you know if you’re adequately prepared? How do you transform your approach without alienating older members?
Eight Easy Ways to Engage Millennials and Gen Z
- Run a comprehensive survey of where your younger target members are spending their time and where they find community (outside of your organization). Learn what captivates them and build your strategy around those insights.
- Host topic-based events to engage members across generations. For instance, host a discussion group in person or via video about what’s changing in your industry.
- Recruit and / or engage millennial community leaders. Your leaders maximize the impact of your community, so give them the attention and support they need (usually around 30% of your time). And deepen their responsibilities to feel a better sense of ownership and connection to the right outcomes.
- Younger generations are passionate about world events and sharing opinions. Make stories/articles about current events a part of your strategy and discuss them with your members.
- Make your online community action-oriented. Think beyond networking and information, and drive action on what matters to them, such as sharing a petition, volunteering or hosting an event in their local community.
- Ask members where they find inspiration: what they read, hear, lectures they attend, ideas they come across. Solicit inspirational posts (even just sharing a meme) from members and add your own.
- Conduct 1:1 interviews with members and share their journeys and struggles. For instance, a professional network could describe how experienced people built their reputation or found their first jobs. Or host AMAs (“Ask Me Anything”) with industry leaders who give younger members inspiration and direction.
- Offer a mentorship program or office hours so that the young generation can learn and network with more experienced members.
As a leader, I could have resisted this profound cultural shift and pridefully adhered to my generation’s differences from a pedestal. Or I could embrace the new reality and change my approach.
I chose the latter. I have learned a lot from this passionate, life-affirming group of people now taking over the workforce. And I have faith in our future.
Now is a critical time to decide if you’re busy growing or busy dying. If you want to stay relevant, it’s time to embrace a new, enlightened model of member engagement.
More essential resources for improving your online community or for building a professional network that enlightens Millennial and Gen Z audiences: