By Sharon Boehlefeld, Features Editor of The Observer
Many weeks ago, the Rockford Diocese held a conference conducted by and about the millennial generation. The goal, of course, was learning how to reach them in a church environment.
But one of the presenters, Emily Burds, who with her husband works for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, revealed 12 secrets — in no particular order — to understanding and getting along with members of her generation.
The tips, though, are also good for those of us in the news business.
(1) Don’t be mean.
Millennials appreciate kindness and courtesy in their interactions with others. If you’re the boss and need to correct them, don’t come down hard. Perry White — “Great Cesar’s Ghost!” — at the Daily Planet isn’t the sort of editor they’re looking for.
(2) Lead with belonging.
When meeting a millennial, they appreciate being greeted as if they belong where they are. A little warmth will go a long way to making them feel comfortable.
In a job interview, don’t open with skeptical challenge, but with curious acceptance.
(3) Be authentic.
While being nice matters, fake niceness rankles. Be yourself and don’t try to compromise your own identity when dealing with the 20- and 30-somethings you work with.
(4) Be health conscious.
If you are hosting a gathering that involves millennials, they prefer healthy food and drink options. Bottled water is better than soda. La Croix water is better than whatever is on sale at the big box store.
(5) Discourage electronics use.
Don’t let millennials engage with their phones. Make eye contact with them. Encourage literal (not virtual) interactions.
This may be difficult when we’re expecting young staffers to manage a variety of news options — from blogs to tweets to Facebook posts to video reports — while also taking notes and preparing a written story on deadline. So there are always exceptions.
But, if possible, invite them into your office or go visit them at their desks when you have something to say.
(6) Stock upscale beer.
If you have beer at the annual company picnic, skip the Bud and bring “good craft beer.”
And get nicer paper plates, not the cheap ones you need to use three of to hold a hamburger and a couple sides.
Table cloths and flowers are nice, too. Millennials appreciate the extras.
(7) Don’t treat them like kids.
Millennials understand that they are still learning, still becoming members of the adult world.
But they don’t like being discounted as useless because they don’t know everything about what they’re doing. They’re looking for mentors who are willing to take some time — in a nice way — to help them improve their understanding and skills.
And to commiserate with them when they fall short.
(8) Don’t use puns.
Sure, they are a stock in trade for headlines, but millennials aren’t fans.
(9) Don’t neglect the environment.
If your office still doesn’t offer recycling options for paper, plastic and other materials, start. They don’t just want to write stories about global warming, second-hand clothes shops and up-cycled furniture, they want to live it.
They’ll be the ones with the reusable drink containers.
The next few tips were aimed primarily at people who design church bulletins, but design is something we’re all involved with.
(10) Don’t use clip art.
Millennials grew up in an image-saturated word. Use the best art available.
(11) Design simply.
Don’t be complex. Visual over-stimulation doesn’t work well with millennials.
(12) Don’t use Papyrus.
There are a lot of streamlined, free fonts out there. Find some.
The millennials you know may have some variations on these tips, but if you ask, I’m sure they’ll tell you.