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Understanding How Millennial Professionals Communicate

In the University of Houston-Victoria's (UHV) online Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Communication program, students learn the art and science of communicating successfully in various professional environments. According to the Pew Research Center, millennials play an important role in these environments, comprising over one-third of the U.S. workforce.

Therefore, understanding how millennials communicate in professional settings is vital to modern communications work. Students in UHV's BA in Communications online program explore the communication styles of diverse populations. Integral to this is understanding the dynamic values, desires and motivations that inform different groups' interaction behaviors in the workplace.

How Do Millennials' Differ from Other Generations in Terms of Communication? 

Generational differences in communication styles certainly exist, namely in terms of technology use and digital communications. Millennials are the first generation to enter adulthood in the era of digital communications. Given this, many millennials are "digital natives," competent with modern technologies and adaptable to rapid changes and innovations in technology use.

Being steeped in digital communication forms (social media, instant messaging, email, etc.) can inform communication styles and preferences. Many millennials still grew up with "traditional" forms of written and oral communications, meaning many have developed skillsets in all ranges of digital and "traditional" communications. In fact, according to one study, the majority of millennials still prefer face-to-face meetings.

However, one of the most notable differences between millennials and other generations may be that millennials readily differentiate communication forms according to setting and purpose. They are often inherently flexible in interaction style and adaptive to what best suits a given situation.

How Are Millennials' Values and Motivations Unique?

Importantly, many generational differences stem from a lack of understanding: perceptions, as opposed to accurately generalizable qualities.

The Plank Center conducted a study surrounding perceptions of attributes, skills, values and motivations common to millennial communication professionals (MCPs). The study found that MCPs and their managers both perceived MCPs to rank highly in terms of technical savvy and innovation. Yet, MCPs' self-perceptions regarding other attributes and motivations differed significantly from the perceptions of their managers.

For instance, the vast majority of surveyed MCPs perceived themselves as ambitious and passionate about work, valuing growth and leadership opportunities. They also highly valued diversity in the workplace and social responsibility in companies. Managers ranked these values and attributes significantly lower in their employees.

MCP responses in terms of recruitment and retention incentives also reflect their values and attributes. MCPs ranked factors like a good reputation, social responsibility, positive work culture and growth opportunities as motivators in recruitment. Similarly, MCPs noted these four aspects as important for retention.

Other generations certainly possess similar constellations of values and incentives, but millennials are unique, to a degree, in their priorities and sources of engagement. To generalize, millennials are often motivated more by social factors, culture and a work-life balance, whereas other generations tend to value the more quantifiable, monetary drivers of a career.

How Does this Impact Professional Communication?

Whether working in the office, managing remote teams or organizing a marketing campaign, engagement is key when considering millennial employees and professional communication.

This, of course, is the case with any type of professional communication. Still, millennials demand more in the way of personalized challenge, positive work culture, diversity, value-based motivation, transparency and flexibility. Improving all of these aspects can be very beneficial to the entire workforce, not just younger employees.

For instance, incorporating multiple communication channels prioritized by the type or urgency of messaging can improve workplace efficiency. Employers can involve millennials in the process of integrating digital communications channels. Plus, because millennials are uniquely fluid in both digital and traditional communications, they can be instrumental in helping coworkers learn unfamiliar communication modes, bridging the gap between older and younger generations of workers.

As to the work-life-social approach, fostering a positive work culture based on transparency and teamwork (as opposed to competition) drives productivity, collaboration and innovation. Advancing diversity in the workplace further engenders a supportive, creative and collaborative environment. Communicating and demonstrating corporate social responsibility fosters value alignment, loyalty and retention.

If anything, millennial professionals communicate with honesty and authenticity. They are flexible and highly competent across communication channels and driven to excel when motivated by communications that speak to their values. As millennials are the largest generational cohort in the U.S. workforce, their communication styles and values will likely shape professional communications for generations to come. 

Learn more about the online University of Houston-Victoria Bachelor of Arts in Communication program.


Adobe: Work in Progress

Flock Blog: What Millennials Can Teach You About Workplace Communication

Pew Research Center: Millennials Are the Largest Generation in the U.S. Labor Workforce

Primeast Forward Focus: The Mindset of the Millennial Generation Workforce

The Plank Center: Millennial Communication Professionals in the Workplace

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