How Millennials Change Your CommunityThursday, February 5, 2015
Part 4 of the blog series Adapting Your Chamber For The Millennial Generation.
In my previous posts, you’ve seen how the Millennial generation is changing how Chambers of Commerce engage members, with the most recent post focused on political advocacy. Now I want to take that trend to the local level and illuminate how these up-and-comers are already changing the communities they live in.
For Millennials, “community” is not a straight-forward concept. A young professional sees themselves as part of many, sometimes overlapping communities. In addition to those defined by geography, profession, and recreational interests, many also participate in online communities built around shared interests or mindsets.
How you define “community” is important to understanding the impact Millennials are having. Cities like Austin, Portland, Des Moines and Denver are being reshaped by an influx of young creative professionals. These people take a practical, activist approach to making their communities into the places they want them to be. No waiting around for incremental change here!
Your Chamber probably wants to promote positive change in your community too, so you already have alignment with the values of these Millennials. Leverage it!
Speak the Language
As I’ve said before, influence is about motivating activity. To make change you need to get people involved, but to get Millennials involved you may need to expand the concept of “involvement.” For example, contributing to online publications, sharing posts on social media, or leading informal gatherings.
Getting past the traditional notion that involvement means showing up is essential. Young professionals are busy building businesses and starting families, so getting them to show up for your traditional events is a challenge. Again, there are many ways to get involved that don’t require showing up, social media posts among them.
In order to get them engaged you need to reach them with your message. Here is where that savvy social media person on your staff is your most important asset! Compelling, concise writing fed into a multi-platform communication system that coordinates between print and online sources will make sure you reach all of your audiences.
Know Your Audience
Seeking to reshape their community, Millennials will often pull together ad hoc groups of people who share a common goal and contribute necessary skills. This model of community impact can be adapted to the Chamber world, too.
If you have an issue or effort that fits the goals of your younger members, don’t waste it! Rather than plug into an existing committee process, create an ad hoc “task force” that will only exist until this goal is reached. That short-term commitment will make busy YPs more likely to get involved.
They are also more likely to support your project if they are meeting new people in the process. Exposure to diverse perspectives is a tangible benefit for many Millennials, so market that as a perk of involvement. Giving people the chance to collaborate—expanding their mind as well as their network—is valuable and can help you get things done.
It’s About Culture
When choosing where to invest their time and energy, Millennials usually look for a few things. First, they want “win-win” scenarios where they feel like they are doing something good for others and getting something good for themselves at the same time. For example, organizing a business expo allows an emerging professional to rub elbows with lots of new people, leverage their professional skills, and promote local businesses at the same time. Win-win-win!
In addition to the win-win, most Millennials are also looking for immediate impacts. This impatience for results is often maligned, but it can be an incredible motivator when properly harnessed. Setting the direction but leaving the process up to them is the fastest route to success. And if something isn’t working, expect them to try an entirely new approach!
Making positive changes in your community is the closest thing we in the Chamber world have to a universal value. Luckily, this value matches closely the values of most Millennials.
When confronted with their impatience for change and frustration with bureaucracy, remember: this isn’t an expression of entitlement. This is evidence of their empowerment to create the community they want to live in. Helping them to make the change happen allows you to leverage their drive for results and achieve your goals at the same time.
Changing the workplace to attract and retain Millennials. Yes, we saved the most important topic for last!