Writing for generations

I hate to be one of those guys who remarks “stupid young people,” but …

“stupid young people.”

My employer has decided to embark on the social media journey by using its own type of Facebook that will connect all colleagues in the area it covers, which is more than 1/4 of the country. I love the idea, as our company is contracted by other companies and it’s easy for members of our team to feel less like members of our team and more like members of the organizations we service. By posting photos of our company’s work in Florida, for instance, it will allow those assigned to a spot in Virginia to feel like they are part of something greater than what they have in Virginia. It also makes it easy to recognize folks’ good efforts.

I was asked to help champion this endeavor, being one of the first 30 or so who have access to this “Facebook.” Since I’m mildly savvy when it comes to this stuff, it’s a perfect fit.

However, after a month of learning the program, practicing and it being rolled out to other leadership in the company and now, today, the initial implementation of it to the ENTIRE company, one thing has become apparent to me:

I write too much for millennials.

I realize millennials are the subject of much ridicule in the workplace. As baby boomers retire, leaders are finding managing to be more challenging because millennials are pretty close to being polar opposites. Three years ago, I had it in my head that millennials will “figure out” they had to be more like baby boomers if they didn’t want to get fired and, in the meantime, would just stick to hiring folks from older generations.

Meanwhile, HR kept sending links to online training seminars geared toward millennials.

More.

More.

And more.

Also during this time, I began to see I had more millennials looking for jobs and fewer and fewer baby boomers because they were retiring to a life of bitching about millennials. There were more clashes between the generations on the job, including complaints “that kid won’t stay off his phone.”

But guess which generation is increasing in the workplace and which is on its way out.

Three years ago, people were fired for being on their phone. That’s just not possible today – we wouldn’t have a workforce.

Among other things we will have to accept as millennials come of age, cell phone use is one. They have become a way of life for young person. Like a drug, they literally cannot put them down. While this sucks a lot and I hate it, older generations are going to have to accept this instead of getting after “kids who won’t stay off their phones.” I mean, managers tell people to get off their phones but reprimand them when they won’t return their texts … that doesn’t make sense.

Which is exactly why I like the idea of social media being used by our company. This is the means of communication millennials are used to using most often. For the most part, people anymore don’t take actual phone calls. They don’t like e-mails. But send a text or a message via social networking, and they’ll respond almost instantly.

If you can’t beat them, join them.

One fault of the baby boomers is the “I was here first, so do it my way” attitude. I’m a little too old to be a millennial, but baby boomers are my father’s age. I have been conditioned to be more malleable. Therefore, the fact I’m a generation older than millennials doesn’t make me believe millennials should do things my way.

Maybe I should do

things THEIR

way.

As I move forward with this task to teach, encourage and use my work’s social network, I am reminded that GONE are the days when people read novels. Everything needs to be concise, to-the-point and lacking foreshadowing, introductions and conclusions. Use bullet points to break down a long paragraph. Why? Millennials have learned they’re too busy to sit down and read a book. They want stopping points so they can read for four minutes at a time and come back to it. They want videos and photos to tell the story – not words.

It has been a humbling experience for me. Ten years ago, I could write and write and write and people would tell me how it made them feel. They’d say they enjoyed it. Now? If that’s all I do is write words, I will get no response … because no one read all of it and some saw how long it was a decided not to read any of it.

It has been especially true for social networking. Even with personal social media, I see more of a response to posters, memes and photos with a dozen words typed over the top than statuses people have actually written. When I made my first post for my work’s social network, I poured a ton of effort into it, describing a procedure, feedback from staff and sharing risks to consider. I included photos and videos.

and didn’t get much feedback.

Later on, our HR director who was also a champion for this new endeavor had a very nice way of saying that maybe I should shorten the text. While this was hard for me to do because I had taken the time to provide context, examples, a conclusion, etc., reducing it to “just my point” increased its likes and views.

Since then, I’ve listed things in bullet points. I’ve let photos tell the story. I’ve kept video clips to 30 seconds or less. I’ve worried less about making my content enjoyable to read and more about making it faster to read.

I’m a work in progress on this, as one can tell by this blog post. It’s difficult for one to throw out the foundation of writing after it’s been drilled into him through decades of school and experience. But THIS is where we are headed. We have to make things fit on one screen of a phone because if we don’t, people won’t read it.

Do I resent millennials and their technology for this? Not really. I’m disappointed, but I can’t alter the path of society.

I just need to learn these ways.

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