Working with millennials in the newsroom: two views

Posted By Student Newsroom on Saturday April 29, 2017

By Shen Lu
Medill News Service

Engage your 20-something employees in the newsroom; don’t try to change them.

That was the message from Kristen Fife, Seattle-based senior technical recruiter, and Olivia Barrow, freelance writer at Linkedin Top Voice, at the Society of American Business Editors and Writers spring conference in Seattle on Saturday.

Fife, a Gen X-er, and Barrow, a millennial, together presented the talk from two different perspectives.

As millennials move into their prime adult years, learning how to work with them is key to enhancing workplace effectiveness.

“Their whole way of thinking about communication, organization, getting work done is different than generations before that had to adapt,” Fife said. “This is where you can take advantage of their proficiency and their way of thinking. And let them do some process improvement, let them actually make suggestions.”

Although millennials had a much different upbringing than earlier generations, they shouldn’t be treated differently as professionals just because they are new, Barrow said.

“Millennials aren’t any different than anybody else,” said Barrow. “It’s just that when you get to be 50, you forget what it is like to be 20.”

Marilyn Geewax, senior business news editor at National Public Radio, commented in the session that she found it exciting to work with millennials on a social media video project that was released in advance of President Donald Trump’s 100th day in office.

“I think of them very much as peers,” she said in an interview. “We each bring something different to the table, but together the table is a lot richer.”

Geewax worked with NPR’s younger graphics employees on the project.

“That’s something I, on my own, really wouldn’t have even thought of, let alone actually know how to execute,” she said. “I need to go where the audience is, and the millennials help me to find my ways to the audience.”

One of the tops things that managers in most organizations misunderstand is that millennials value transparency and communication, Fife said.

“They want to know what’s going on and how they can participate,” said Fife, “They don’t want to be slated as, you have to wait your turn because we have other people who’ve been here longer, who’ve earned the right to try something before you do.”

“Just because someone’s paid their dues, it doesn’t mean that they know better than someone who’s half their age,” she added.

From the employee’s standpoint, Barrow said, besides demonstrating their capabilities, they should communicate their needs to managers more effectively and understand that their bosses don’t know what they want.

“Telepathy does not work in the workplace,” Barrow said.

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