You have two years to prepare for this change

Thursday 25 May, 2017

If you had the ability to travel back in time and adopt a business change before it swept through, would you do it? If you knew then what you know now about social media, would you have jumped in earlier?

Just as the Starks proclaim, ‘Winter is coming’, in Game of Thrones, business is about to face one of its biggest shifts in 20 plus years. And I’m giving you 2 years warning.

By 2020 approximately half of our workforce will be Gen Y and Millennials. If you look around your office or any retailer right now, you’ll recognise the truth in that statement. While most of us are still listening to 80s music and grappling with using social media in our business, our newest employees are wondering who Bon Jovi is and rolling their eyes at our inability to grasp the intricacies of SnapChat.

While it may feel like a gentle breeze at the moment, the impact of this generational shift on our business is building in the background like a tsunami.

The way we communicate and structure our businesses to adapt to these incoming generations will be crucial. How we communicate with our employees – and our clients – will change.

Gen Y and Millennials are our first true ‘digital native’ generations. They have grown up never knowing life before the internet. They learn about whatever interests them through digital learning platforms. Why else do you think that LinkedIn spent USD1.5 billion on the acquisition of…because they see and understand the shift in the way these generations enjoy learning.

So what does this mean for business owners?

  • Take stock of how you communicate to your employees and clients now. How could you incorporate platforms that are more Millennial friendly? Perhaps a review of your social media usage would give you a few good insights on where you could start.
  • Consider expanding your written forms of communication – such as emails or newsletters – to include options such as podcasts or video. Shorter, more frequent touch points can go a long way to engage Gen Y and Millennials.
  • Review your business ethics footprint. Gen Y and Millennials are looking to work for companies that have a strong social conscience. If you want to engage these generations, consider how you give back to your community and how you communicate that to your people.
  • If employee loyalty is of value to your business, begin looking at ways that you can offer additional learning opportunities and a stronger work/life balance for your team. Research is suggesting that Gen Y and Millennials consider an average tenure at a business to be around 12 - 18 months and that career changes will occur numerous times during their working life. It will fall to individual business owners to find ways to keep their employees engaged if they are hoping to hold onto employees the way they did with Gen X and Baby Boomers.
  • Gen Y and Millennials require more frequent touch points and feedback from their employers than current generations. The formalised work review sessions that are so common in workplaces today will not cut it with the new generations. Finding ways to communicate your appreciation to these employees is something every business will need to consider.

If you hope to see your business surviving this generational shift, some pre work in the coming years will shore up your business. No business wants to get left behind so now is the perfect opportunity to engage your newest and youngest employees. Find out how they see your business growing, what changes they would like to see and where they see their careers taking them in the future.

After all, nothing beats conducting your own in house research with the people you have on hand to ensure that you are creating the best possible workplace for everyone in the future.

gen y


Tracy Sheen

About the contributor:

Tracy Sheen has always enjoyed storytelling. Years spent volunteering at community radio stations, uncovered a natural talent behind the microphone. It took some 20 years of corporate middle management working with some of Australia’s leading retail organisations before she found her true calling as a podcast creator, producer and editor. Tracy launched her small business podcast “Not Another Business Show” in 2015 which is listened to in over 60 countries by thousands of people each week. She founded Corporate Podcast Productions, helping business owners embrace marketing for the new age. Tracy is a regular commentator on the subject of podcasting. Website:

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