Whenever I speak, I always challenge my audience and their thought processes. I do my best to get them to shake off the cobwebs of “business as usual” and to take a look around to see if what they are doing today is relevant.

I recently asked an audience of planners, buyers, and suppliers if they knew the breakdown of employees within their companies by workforce generation. Out of a group of 100 people, a handful raised their hands. Then I asked how many of them work with human resources or do internal surveys to understand the makeup of their employees. Again, the same number of hands went up. 

Most people today are so overburdened with their workloads and corporate performance pressures that they sometimes forget to stop and gauge the landscape. And that landscape is changing dramatically: For the first time in U.S. history, there are four generations in our current workforce. But it’s the Millennials (ages 18-33) who will comprise half the workforce by 2020 and 75 percent of the workforce by 2025. This will directly impact your policies, processes, operation procedures, communications, and, frankly, your bottom line! 

Here’s a good example of how. A friend of mine who was well known for driving compliance with corporate policies was suddenly experiencing a drop-off in compliance. She asked me to review her data and brainstorm as to what could be happening. I found that she hadn’t analyzed her workforce profile, and therefore her policies, processes, and communication methods were out of touch. Her company had done some major reorganization and lot of her Baby Boomer employees had retired, were made redundant, or had headed for greener pastures. Her workforce majority had shifted to more of a Gen X and Y mix. Her drop-off was traced to the exit of the Baby Boomer majority.

Gen X is used to e-mail as a primary communication mode, versus social media outlets.They are more accustomed to a one-way communication style and push surveys. The Millennials, on the other hand, don’t like one-way messaging; they need an outlet to let you know what they are thinking and feeling. They also are idealistic and socially conscious. They respond to sustainable meeting practices, CSR activities, and corporate sponsorships. They don’t read e-mails, and prefer texting and sharing their personal evaluations for services, speakers, programs, and food via their mobile phones. You need to provide them with a “Yelp-like” opportunity to get feedback, not just send a tired old survey via e-mail.

You have to change your tactics for this group. For example, if you’re composing an e-mail communication, consider their “Twitter filter” mentality” and that they are used to glancing, not reading. You might need to remind them to “Read This.” Or rather than using big paragraphs, try bullet points. Never bury important instructions in the middle or at the end. Consider using texts when you can. And keep in mind that this generation doesn’t use the phone to call people.

It’s time to pay more attention to demographics. Be proactive, not reactive. Remain open to new ideas, thinking, and trends, then incorporate them into your work environment to stay relevant. Embrace the opportunity!