How to engage with young people

We attended a recent conference on engagement held by the CIPR called Engage Inside.   Of particular interest was a panel discussion with a group of young people, commonly categorised as Generation Y. This group aged approximately 23 and above, are the successors to Generation X.

Gen X succeeded the ‘Baby Boomer’ generation (anyone born in the 60’s and 70’s). Whilst these age distinctions aren’t cut and dried, they are ways of roughly segmenting audiences with whom we communicate.  

Gen Y, as it’s known, is a generation that has grown up with technology.

It appears Gen Y is known to be a more demanding group of young people who are likely to get bored more quickly than the other groups. You may even have one of them at home!They are very familiar with multi-tasking and using technology.

A panel of young people from the public, not -for-profit and private sector patiently answered questions from the audience of older communication ‘experts’.
An edited summary of the Q&A follows:

Q. What do you think of the Gen Y tag?

A. Labels aren’t good. People are different.

People have different experiences and objectives in life – but sometimes there is some truth to the stereotypes.

Q. What brands inspire you?

A. A comfortable atmosphere is more important than the brand. Some brands like Facebook and Google appeal more than others. We are inspired by and love technology – the fact that we can speak to 5 friends all at once and not just one. Older people aren’t so receptive to change and they sometimes appear to envy, or be intimidated by the PC skills of younger people. They are also a bit stale when it comes to multi tasking. 

Q. What were you expecting when you walked through the door on your first day at work?

A. I had no idea.

I was expecting more investment in training in return for the blood, sweat and tears I put in.

In Gen Y we are known for treating employers as a stepping stone, always wanting something different and new. So we like it when we are given ownership of a project and can take responsibility.

Q. What’s more important – the job or the organisation?

A. The job and a career is important but it depends on the individual. (private sector)

In not for profit we engage with both the job and the organisation and with the community. But it’s important to have a sense of purpose and an idea of the potential for  future job opportunities

Q What is important in communication?

A. It should always be face to face. We use Facebook to contact remote friends but there should be standards set. Face to face is better – you get a bond, and if it’s with someone higher up in the organisation that makes you feel good.

Instant Messaging is a very good tool so that we can chat with people in a different division when we need interaction. Facebook and Twitter helps with that.

Q How should we engage with young people?

A Let them take the lead on a workshop. Give them the opportunity to run with an idea and have autonomy.

Give them independence and show you trust them.

Encourage them to stretch themselves.

Some have a problem with authority so put the idea in their head and pretend it was theirs.

You need to give young people support and identify the core reason why they need help. It’s good to know your manager cares about you.

Q What would make you want to leave?

A. If the brand declined substantially, or if there was discrimination, unfair treatment or if the money focus became more important than our primary goal.

Q Who or what has inspired you most?

A.  We have a supportive family work environment.

The HR manager takes care about the little details, like when you are getting married.

The CEO knows my name!

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