Understanding and Communicating With the Overly-Informed Millennial Generation — League of Innovation Summit

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Understanding and Communicating With the Overly-Informed Millennial Generation

Strong communication skills are critical to successful student learning. Participants will acquire a firm understanding of the impact generational differences play in choosing effective communication strategies. Small group discussion and interactive activities are included.

Sally Pestana, Director, Health Education, Kapi’olani Community College, HI; Rick Walker, Director, STARLINK, Dallas County Community College District, TX


Did you know?

Millennials Boomers Matures
Attended college   61% 46% ??
Married   26% 48% 65%
  • 84% of millennials say having a meaningful impact on the world is more important than professional recognition or wealth
  • 84% donated to a social cause in 2014
  • 84% own a smart phone – and use it on average 45 times per day


Educating the Overly Informed Millennial Generation

Session Goals

  • Understand how generational differences are formed
  • Articulate the importance of recognizing generational differences in the classroom
  • Responding to the need for teaching skills addressing generational differences
  • Helping all students respect the differences among the generations

The Generations

  • The Matures (1920-1945) – Age 71+
  • The Baby Boomers (1946-1964) – Age 51 to 70
  • The Gen Xers (1965-1980) – Age 35 to 50
  • The Millennials (1981-2000) – Age 15 to 34

Guess Which One Is The Largest Living Generation!!


Generational Differences Influence:

  • Habits
  • Values
  • Attitudes
  • Behaviors
  • Expectations
  • Motivational buttons
  • Communication preferences


Matures (1920-1945)

  • Duty, honor, country
  • Conformity, consistency, and commitment
  • Tom Brokaw’s “Greatest Generation”
  • Hard times and then prosperity
  • Save – then pay cash
  • Hardworking; doing a good job is most important
  • Education was a dream
  • Nuclear family

Matures, sometimes referred to as the “silents” in the literature were raised during the depression. Commitment is a huge value for this generation.  Think back to a grandparent or parent that worked in the same job for three, four or five decades. This generation is known for rarely leaving an employer on their own volition – most stayed with the same company their entire career.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

  • Raised in prosperity by depression era parents with significant impact
  • Raised to be independent and “go out and get a job”
  • Work ethic = Long hours / “workaholics
  • Success defined by number of hours at the office
  • Competitive – only one winner
  • Education was a birthright
  • Buy now, pay later

Important to realize how matures impacted the Baby Boomers. They were raised by depression and war-era parents. They were taught to do what you need to do to gain financial security, thus avoiding the challenges their parents faced.  Baby Boomers were raised to always save and work hard. Told to get a job that will leave an impact on society and has benefits. The Baby Boomers Created the term “workaholics”.  

Millennial view – “Gosh, now I realize why my bosses are here all the time.  They have no other life.  Now I feel sorry for them.  How sad.”

Baby Boomers have few hobbies – too busy working. Some are taking on hobbies post retirement. By and large, they did not receive much affection, and thus are not very demonstrative. Discipline was the rule. There was only one winner.

First generation Americans tend to have more BB characteristics – regardless of their generation. Baby Boomers have most direct influence on Millenials because of their success and close connections.


Gen Xers (1965-1980)

  • Had two working parents (often children of divorce) / “latch-key kids”
  • Saw parents laid off leading to distrust
  • Self reliant, independent, and resilient
  • Want their passion to be their profession
  • Technologically adept and flexible
  • Work ethic = “Measure me by my outcomes.”
  • Money is important but control of time is the goal
  • Save, save, save
  • Frustrated that “boomers” won’t turn over responsibility to them


Millennials (1981-2000)

  • Raised by boomers who used opposite child rearing practices as their depression era parents
  • Grew up in merged families, and/or had grandparents with strong influence
  • Protected – raised by “helicopter” parents
  • Participation generation – everybody gets a trophy
  • “Techno-kids” – taking multi-tasking to a new level
  • Work ethic = Get paid to get the job done, NOT to be in the office
  • Expect flexibility, fun, and meaningful work – with their first job
  • Optimistic, energetic, and demanding
  • Empowered and spontaneous
  • Enter job market confident of their own value
  • Family and friends come above their careers
  • Education is a huge expense
  • Earn to spend
  • Encouraged to “Find a job that makes you happy”
  • Work, think, and travel in groups
  • Value education, relationships, achievements, and diversity
  • Want and need constant and immediate feedback and will give the same

Years of self-esteem building have given this generation the sense of being wanted and special. Baby Boomers told their children to find a job that makes you happy! This generation expects not only that they’ll be happy, but well compensated and make a difference for their happiness. They prefer to have LOTS of feedback as contrasted with the  Baby Boomer philosophy of  “no news is good news”.


Generations of U.H. Faculty vs. National Engineering Firm

UH Faculty large national engineering firm
Matures (Age 71+ 4% 0%
Baby Boomers (Age 51 to 70) 47% 15%
Gen Xers  (Age 35 to 50) 36% 31%
Millennials  (Age 15 to 34) 13% 54%

Depending on which report you read

Faculty’s Role

  • Be aware of stereotypes and understand how they shape other’s perceptions of you, and you of them!
  • Be prepared to teach millennials  the importance of generational differences, as they will be working with some boomers and many Xers during their careers


In the classroom…

  • Flexibility is critical
  • Use clear and straightforward language with everyone, but especially with millennials because millennials don’t respond to subtleties
  • Millennials  grew up in an instantaneous world, with Google immediately answering their every question and helicopter parents at their beck and call – they bring those same  expectations into the classroom
  • Have career goals, positive attitudes, technological savvy, and collaborative inclinations
  • Value communication and information and respond well when told the “why” behind the teaching and assessment methods you use
  • View higher education as an expensive but economically necessary consumer good
  • Higher education is not a privilege earned by hard work and outstanding performance
  • ¡They (or their parents) “purchase” it for the purpose of opening well-paying occupational doors on graduation
  • Feel entitled to their degree for the cost of the credits
  • Want to know that you care about them  — “They will care how much you know, when they know how much you care”.
  • Accustomed to near-constant interaction, and want to relate to you
  • Used to having clear expectations set
  • Respond well to structure, discipline, rules, and regulations

Those whose grades slip in college feel their self-esteem threatened and may react with depression, anxiety, defensiveness, and even anger against us. In addition, they hear a lot a “bad news” from us in their classes: that they didn’t learn enough in high school to handle college, that knowledge bases are full of holes and unsolved mysteries, that their beliefs and values are subject to question and debate, and that both college and the real world demand that they work and prove their worth.


Golden Rule vs. Platinum Rule

  • Treat others as you would like to be treated.
  • Communicate with others using their preferred method of communication.
    • Rotary phones
    • Touch tone phones
    • Cell phones
    • Texting


Communication Needs

  • Boomers communicated with family and  friends via snail mail and long distance phone
  • Millennials  prefer to communicate by text message or e-mail
    • They don’t expect to have to talk
    • Or write formally
  • Lots of room for teaching and growth


Messages that Motivate

“Your experience is respected” – satisfaction comes from a job well done

“You are valued and needed” – satisfaction comes from money and title recognition

“Do it your way – forget the rules” – satisfaction comes from freedom

“You will work with other bright, creative people” – satisfaction comes from constant feedback and doing meaningful work


Work Ethic

  • Duty before fun
  • Workaholic – works efficiently, quality important, not afraid to question authority
  • Eliminate the task!  Desires structure and direction, but skeptical
  • What’s next?!  Goal oriented, multi-tasker