Millennials and hierarchy don't mix--they are used to taking matters into their own hands when something can't or won't get done. This is the generation of self-sparked fundraising campaigns even revolutions.
Millennials have more info at their fingertips, are adept at finding answers, and with them loads of ideas about how to make things better. And they want to be heard, acknowledged, engaged, and not just for their own sake, but to make a difference.
A bad experience or an occasion when they feel unheard quickly gets escalated to the web where, they know, their review will be read by thousands. The documenting capability of a smart phone enables them to quickly advise others to avoid the pitfalls in your organization.
I once saw an ambitious young man present a plan to contribute a revenue generating activity for a non-profit. It was a big idea and the charity took months to deliberate and ultimately push back on the idea. In the meantime, the young man had gone ahead and launched his own non-profit to do the job--a missed opportunity for the charity to raise much needed funds and engage a new pool of millennials.
While it may seem daunting, there's a tremendous upside opportunity to create channels to listen to millennials, take the best ideas, cut through the hierarchy and execute them--sometimes enlisting their help to get it done too.
Practically speaking, how does this work? What can you do to improve the customer experience in your company, charity, church, etc.? There are a litany of solutions, but here are a few basics to illustrate the point:
1. Remember the suggestion box? Consider using one, seriously, an old-fashion box, anchor it to the wall, have staff encourage ideas, and actually read and follow-up on them, good and bad.
2. Listen to the commentary about your organization online. Check out the review sites (Yelp, Google, Facebook to name a few), and respond to suggestions.
3. If you have a sense that the feedback you're getting is coming from an informed and capable source, consider asking them to be a part of the solution.
True story, I once had a volunteer from Google show up to volunteer and he pointed out that the site location on Google maps was wrong. I asked if he knew how to fix it and he said he was on the team in the company that oversees maps. I immediately changed his task for the day to improve the online presence, which he was glad to do.
4. Highlight the wins--times when you heard feedback and made changes. Post these stories in your newsletter or on social media so you reinforce that you are listening and acting.
Of course, engaging with suggestions takes manpower, and my suggestion is that you take it seriously, so don't assign an intern or anyone else without authority to do anything about it. There's nothing more annoying than taking time send off good thinking to receive no feedback in return, much less any real change.
Dispatch the utility player on your team--the person who knows where to pass the ball to the right person, or even better, how to get things done. Once in awhile get your CEO or top leadership involved in the response showing commitment to listen, adapt, execute change, and then tell the story--there's nothing more millennial than that!