Interesting article from Dr. Karyn Gordon on Communicating Gen Y Style

Hello everyone,

At one of my most recent leadership events I host for Gen Y (10-29 year olds) one 18 year old participant bluntly told me during the break – "Man Dr. Karyn – I love your style." When I asked him why – he quickly said "Because you talk fast. It drives me nuts when my bosses and teachers talk slow."

In 2 seconds he managed to nail one of the key elements to communicating and engaging Gen Y at work but also in the classroom. Whether I''m training 300 teachers in Vancouver or 300 accountants in Toronto – I''m doing the same job. Essentially I''m a translator between Gen Y and those who work with them (employers, teachers and parents). I''ve intimately worked with this passionate generation for 14 years and they have clearly taught and trained me about what works and what does not.

Most professionals know that communicating effectively is one of the secret ingredients to engagement and research tells us that when people are engaged they are better students (marks go up) and better employers (loyalty and retention go up).

So how do we do it? Here are my 7 tips to communicating "Gen Y- style".

Dr. Karyn

Communicating Gen Y Style:
At Work & The Classroom
By Dr. Karyn Gordon

(1) Talk Fast
This may seem strange, but when we authentically understand who they are and how their upbringing has affected them it makes sense. They''ve grown up in a generation where everything moves fast. If a website is taking more than 1 second to upload –they''ve moved on. Our communication needs to match this.

(2) Get to the Point
When talking to a Gen Y it''s important that you not only talk fast – but that you get to the point as soon as possible. When I first did media training years ago for a company that wanted me to be their media spokesperson– they taught me the most important rule: Know my top 3 key messages and state these as early as possible in the interview. Especially in media – time is precious. One never really knows whether an interview will be 5 minutes or just 1 minute so it''s important to get right to the point. Similarly with Gen Y, you don''t know how much time you have before they become bored or disinterested – so get to the point and share the most important material at the beginning.

(3) Give Examples
Whatever you are training or teaching them – try to give real life examples. You want to try to connect the material / concepts on a practical level that they connect to. When I''m doing leadership training with them – I teach principles then quickly give a practical example / story with someone in their similar age / situation. They are constantly asking themselves "How does this relate to me?" – so the more you give examples it helps them connect to the information, which keeps them engaged.

(4) Explain the "Why"
For any of us who have worked with Gen Y we know that they constantly ask "Why". "Why do I get a consequence when this assignment is late?" "Why can''t I text my friends during my shift?" Often older generations interpret the "why" question as disrespecting their authority. But this is seldom the case. Many Gen Y''s struggle with making decisions (they have grown up in a time when people constantly tell them what to do and how to live). So when they are asking why – it''s often their way to understand how you came up with that idea. The best I''ve learned is to explain the why even before they ask!

(5) Allow them to Question
Be sure to incorporate questions as an integral part of your classroom or work culture. Sometimes it''s a great idea to do questions at the beginning as well as the end (if you''re working on a series this can work well). As a professional speaker, Q& A has proven to be a valuable time for me. It helps me understand what parts I need to be more clear on or perhaps give another example that connects more to my audience. It also helps Gen Y''s to hear questions from their peers and realize that they are not alone.

(6) Be Transparent
Sharing personally and being transparent is an essential key to connecting and engaging with them. Share your struggles, failures and weaknesses. Share the ups and downs of your field. Share the secrets to your field. They connect to real people, not professionals that seem perfect and distant. Gone are the days were we have to look like we''ve got everything together. Gen Y''s want real, genuine managers and teachers.

(7) Be Honest
Research tells us that honesty is one of the highest values for Gen Y even above respect. After all - we can''t truly be respectful if we are dishonest. So if you don''t know – tell them. As an expert in my field I know a lot but I don''t know everything. So I''ve learned the importance of saying when I know something and when I don''t. Communicating honesty builds trust which not only will engage them but they will also think higher of you.

Do you have more questions for Dr. Karyn? Visit her website at to read more of Dr. Karyn''s answers to corporate questions and submit your own questions.