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If you’ve got any millennial colleagues, it may not be a surprise to you that if you are communicating with them about a certain project or assignment, you may get a 1-letter response back: “K.”  I’m guilty of this as well, and while I would categorize this as efficient communication, I wouldn’t categorize it as highly communicative.  So what I learned at the 2016 HR Indiana conference surprised me a bit:  both millennials and Gen Z (those born between 1994 and 2010) report that being “communicative” is the most important quality of a leader.

What’s also surprising, with both generations being so reliant on text communication and short “status updates” online, each generation still feels that in-person communication is the most effective way to communicate with coworkers.

For managers who have employees in any generation, communication is one of the most valuable skills to develop.  Here are some tips to start honing that ability:


Lack of transparency and losing sight of company vision and strategy play a key role in why a third of employees don’t trust their employers.  To help gain the trust of employees, managers should often share what they’re learning from their own direct leaders higher up.  Whenever a manager shares information about company objectives, goals, mission, vision, values, it’s a perfect time to remind employees how their role directly aligns with the organization’s success.  Feeling like one’s work has meaning is a huge indicator of employee retention and it can’t be said often enough about how employees are contributing and making a difference.  Don’t assume that employees won’t want to know some item of information or that it’s not relevant to them; it’s better to share more than you think they need to know than less.

Feed Forward

Often the term “feedback” has a negative connotation and can be viewed as a scary and difficult task.  At Purple Ink, our supervisory communication training introduces the idea of “feed forward,” which is all about sharing information to better have future success.  All information can either be categorized as: do more of this/keep doing what you’re doing OR in the future, try something different/make a necessary change.

Feed forward is also a two-way street.  Employees need to be encouraged to share their own feed forward information about how the company/leadership is performing as well: what is the company or your supervisor doing well and/or what can we do to improve in the future?  Having an open line of communication in this way helps employees better know the expectations that are set for them, as well as allowing them to have a voice.


The old adage of “no news is good news” is just that – old and outdated.  Communication of any kind should be happening on a daily basis.  We are all victims of wanting immediate gratification/recognition for our work, and with the rise of technology, this is not only a want but an expectation.  Many Millennials and those in Gen Z expect recognition or feedback/feed forward each time a project is completed or on a daily basis.  Performance reviews should no longer be an annual or event based process – many Fortune 500 companies are ditching this antiquated system and moving to ongoing performance feedback models.  Sharing information on a regular basis doesn’t have to be a lengthy, time-consuming process. Connecting about performance can be done in 10 minutes or less each week.

Leaders now and in the future need to become excellent managers of people rather than excellent managers of processes.  Teaching them skills to communicate effectively will help them better retain their staff and in turn make the company more successful.  Have your leaders gotten communication training recently?  If not – Purple Ink can help!

Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt
Catherine Schmidt is a former member of the Purple Ink team. She has a special interest in career coaching and recruiting and finds joy when she can connect the right person to the right opportunity.

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