How to communicate effectively with millennials

16th June 2020

In just 5 short years, three-quarters of the workforce will be made up of millennials. As this generation shift becomes more prominent, real estate leaders need to adapt to be able to connect with future generations. In this episode of Digital You, powered by LJ Hooker, host Steve Carroll is joined by social researcher and McCrindle Communications Director Ashley Fell to bridge the disconnect between the older generation and the future workforce. Ashley talks about how the pace in change is only going to grow, how agents need to connect with millennials on platforms they’re using, and why your messaging needs to be to the point, interesting and engaging so you don’t lose their attention early on.


Steve (00:00):
By 2025, in just five short years, millennials will account for three quarters of the global workforce, and that means your marketplace too. How do you connect effectively with millennials and the generations that follow them? Here’s a hint. It’s not by drop cards or newspaper ads. I’m Steve Carroll. Many of you will know me from my days at I’m now the CEO and Founder of Digital Live, which is an education program for real estate agents to help real estate agents get more from their digital footprint. I’m very, very lucky today to be joined by Ashley Fell in the LJ Hooker Podcast studio. Ashley is a social researcher. She’s a TEDx speaker and Director of Communications at the research company, McCrindle. My first question, Ashley. I’m really looking forward to asking this question. My three teenage kids, they keep saying to me, okay, boomer. What does that actually mean? Should I be quite happy with that? Is that actually a bit of a slur? Can you explain please, Ashley?

Ashley (01:15):
Well, that’s a great question, Steve. I know a lot of different generations, probably including some gen zeds who came up with the term asking that question. This, okay, boomer term was developed on the very popular new platform of TikTok, which is short videos often to music. Somebody created this really catchy song around, okay, boomer and it captured, I think, a bit of a sentiment of a generation. Often used by the millennials or the gen zeds, those who are aged between 11 and 25. It can be used as a somewhat dismissive term or phrase to talk about people who have either outdated views or unpopular opinions contrary to that of the popular opinions of our next generation, particularly around controversial or political areas like climate change or even use of technology.

Ashley (02:05):
It’s been interesting to even observe that it’s not just targeted at boomers. I’m a millennial, I’m an older gen Y and sometimes I think I was speaking to my gen zed colleague recently and I said, “Oh, what’s that?” She’s like, “Oh, okay, boomer,” because I didn’t know about a really new advancement in the social media world or a new slang. It can be used to just communicate someone has got an outdated or irrelevant view. That’s what it means and how it originated.

Steve (02:31):
Okay, got it. Got it. It’s great to have you in the studio today, Ashley. One of the things I’m really keen to get your view on is we’re all aware of this trend of more and more computer tech savvy people joining the workforce. Not only are they joining the workforce, they’re starting to delve into property. When you consider that the average age of a real agent here in Australia is mid to late 40s. I’m wondering, is there a disconnect that could see this, okay, boomer thing really accelerating, because one of the things that I see for sure is these tech savvy millennials, they’re not going to want to deal with agents that are behind the times thinking like they thought in the 1990s. What’s your thought on that, Ash?

Ashley (03:29):
Yeah, I think it’s an area and a topic that a lot of people are having issues with. It’s not just the real estate industry. Australia has an aging workforce. Australia has an aging population. A lot of sectors and organizations and leaders are a bit older and there is this increasing disconnect between the generations who are in leadership or in leadership roles and the emerging generations who are coming through. I do think it’s an area of concern for a lot of different organizations and sectors. Hopefully that’s somewhat reassuring to those working in real estate. Also, I think leaders need to be aware of this disconnect. Particularly, I guess when you’re dealing with A, customers or consumers, and B, your own employees or your own team. Internally, the next generation coming through who you’re engaging with your workforce, and then also the next generation of customers, because they are engaging with brands and organizations in a really different way.

Ashley (04:21):
They’ve got increased expectations from increasingly tech savvy and integrated lives, that instant gratification, that experience and expectation transcends lots of different areas of their life. I think leaders being aware of that difference and then not just sticking our head in the sand. We talk about in some of our workshops and presentations this idea of change fatigue, whereby a lot of people can go, Oh, there’s so much change happening, oh, the next generation is so different to me, it’s all too much. I’ll just continue doing things the way I always have. But we can’t do that anymore. The pace of change is never going to be this slow again. Organizations and leaders in real estate, especially with this next generation coming through into the workforce, into those who are buying property and looking to, as you said, purchase a home or rent somewhere. Really being able to connect with them on the platforms that they’re using and the ways in which they engage with the world around them is going to be really key if we want to remain relevant and thriving over the next decade.

Steve (05:24):
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s just talk about communication for a second. Imagine that I’m a real estate agent on North of 50, and I’ve got a client who is 23, 24 years of age, very tech savvy. With the research that you’ve got, what are the obvious expectations that I’m going to have to meet to ensure that I give a good impression to this younger generation of buyers and sellers?

Ashley (05:54):
Yeah, sure. I think one of the areas that we’re seeing is increased personalization of services. I think a lot of organizations are really starting to think about that in terms of the service delivery and how you’re delivering that service, but also how to personalize that. Say for example, this young person is coming in for some property advice or looking for that, they don’t just want an off the shelf service or product. I feel like the next generation can really sense that inauthentic standard service delivery. They’re looking for more personalization because you’re not just competing with other agents anymore. You’re competing with online agents. You’re competing with computers and AI increasingly over the next decade. Adding value where you can I think is going to be really important. Personalization of service. Also, the immediacy of services and awareness of what you do.

Ashley (06:47):
I know we’ve done some research among the next generation. If there’s no online presence, even if at social media, just to have a look at peer reviews or customer reviews or the personality of an organization, that’s really important as well for the next generation. If you’re not existing online, they’re not going to pick up the phone in more traditional ways or come into the office and have a meeting. They might be looking to engage first or scope you out online. I think that’s another important aspect to make sure that you’re aware of where this next generation are looking for those sources of information, personalize that information, and making it authentic and adding value. Because as I said, they can get that information probably online, but they’re looking for things that they can’t get online from that person-to-person service.


Steve (07:33):
Absolutely. It’s interesting. You talk about personalization and immediacy because when you think about it, Facebook, they’ve risen the bar, they’ve taken the bar higher when it comes to personalization. With so many of their notifications that they send out. Things like, you’ve been connected with this person for five years, here’s some memories or moments that you’ve shared together. We all know what Uber and Amazon have done around immediacy. It’s very interesting you should say that. What about communication? I mean, does the phone still work for that younger demographic or should real estate agents be trying harder using different methods? What’s your thoughts on that?

Ashley (08:18):
Yeah, I think definitely the latter. I think it’s important that organizations and real estate leaders and real estate agents do, I guess, need to work harder. I often say that even as a conference speaker, and if you’re communicating or in marketing, you’ve got to work harder because all of us are living in increasingly message-saturated, information overload times. How do you cut through that noise? I think it is about developing content and being on the new platforms. I still think obviously the phones do work and there is more traditional methods of communicating that millennials will still use. Remembering even that term millennials often, I feel like people often use it to describe young people. We prefer it to be a synonym of the gen Ys. The gen Ys in 2020 will be aged from 25 to 40.

Ashley (09:06):
The oldest gen Ys are hitting their 40s in 2020. They’re a bit older than maybe we expect, but even with generation zed, they aren’t used to picking up the more traditional aspect of the phone. Maybe in the past where the phone call was the first point of contact. For an emerging generation, it might be the fifth or sixth point of contact because they’ve looked you up online, they’ve looked for you on social media, they’ve looked for videos or visual aspects of storytelling. That’s another thing we’ve definitely noticed in our research is that we’re passionate about, I mean, we’re a research agency so we’ve got a lot of data and demographics which can be pretty dry stats and data. We’ve got in-house design capacity to make that data look interesting and engaging. We work in the space of infographics. I’ve seen over the last couple of months this new gen zed slang term called TLDR, which stands for too long, didn’t read.

Ashley (09:59):
The idea that not many of us love getting, I think regardless of age, not many of us love getting a big wordy report or a big wordy marketing or communication piece. How can you invest the time in making your message interesting and engaging and visual and the use of storytelling and video as well? Even for generation zed, we say the number one search engine for them is no longer Google, it’s YouTube, because why would they read it when they can watch it? It’s this shift in how they engage with content and information, and even searching around real estate and housing and house prices in the market. What’s it doing, a video is going to connect more than a PDF full of stats. I think working harder at how we communicate and the platforms that we communicate on, when we’re thinking about the breadth of customers that you’re engaging, particularly the emerging generations as they come into the property market is going to be really key.

Steve (10:45):
Right. Okay, got it. Let’s just talk about video for a second. One of the things that a lot of real estate agents and principals do are these regular market reports and they do them through video, which is really great. How do you get cut-through with these videos with millennials? How do you get them to stand up and take notice? What are your recommendations and advice?

Ashley (11:14):
I think if you’re wanting to build a bit of your own personal brand, and I guess as a real estate agent, you want to connect and you want to build relationship with people. I think the first part is featuring you and you speaking and so that people can actually connect with you. I think that’s the first part. The second part when you’re dealing with a lot of data and demographics or information or statistics, which is probably coming from my researcher background here is to make that really visual and use icons rather than a lot of text. I think that’s the third part, I guess. Well, sorry. The third part would be, don’t be afraid to outsource. I think that’s one of the things I’ve seen in our research is a lot of older generations are feeling concerned or worried about how we market and communicate and connect with the next generation.

Ashley (12:02):
Hopefully, take a leaf out of the next generation’s book who are used to outsourcing and using Airtasker for things and things like that, where you can go, oh, I can actually commission or bring someone else on. Perhaps a younger generation in your team who’s got this expertise and knowledge just from growing up as a digital native and using that and leveraging that. I think that’s the third part is don’t be afraid to outsource that, but make it visual, make sure that you’re connecting. Also, I think the importance of storytelling is really key. Again, for us at McCrindle, it’s all about data storytelling and we work hard to analyze all the statistics and then pull out the findings and communicate them with story and contextualizing them is important and the data. Making sure that what you’re saying and the story you’re telling is being positioned really well on that platform.

Steve (12:47):
Thanks for that. I’m sure there are lots of business owners and principals listening to this podcast which is being recorded at LJ Hooker’s recording studio in Sydney. My name is Steve Carroll. I’m here with Ashley Fell. For a lot of principals and business owners listening, what we know is today’s workforce will not tolerate poor leadership. The days of somebody kicking around in one job for years and years, that’s over. If you’re leading and you’re managing a team of very talented 20 year olds or 30 year olds, and you desperately want to keep hold of them, how do you ensure you do that?

Ashley (13:28):
That’s a great question. Particularly because the job mobility that we’re seeing with the next generation is so high, there’s this crazy statistic that we derived from this report from the Australian Human Resource Institute. They put out a report last year which said the average tenure of someone staying in one role in an organization is down now to two years and nine months. That’s the average across all generations. If you extrapolate that out over the lifetime of a school leaver today, noting that they will live longer and they’ll therefore work later into their life, it’s predicted they could have up to 18 jobs across six careers. I guess a little bit of concern is really prevalent. I see that in the organizations that commission us to do research or events that I speak at. There is a little bit of that fear around that.

Ashley (14:14):
I think part of it is, like you said, knowing as a leader that you’ve got great capacity to influence the culture of an organization or the people that you’re leading. It’s really not about, I guess, business is often about profitability and margins and things like that, but when you’re thinking about attracting and retaining talent and as a leader, I think it’s important. The research we’ve conducted shows it’s important to think about the people that you’re managing. I’ve used that word just before, but it’s one of the key pieces we often talk about in our research, it’s that idea of an organization’s culture. That idea, I think I’ve heard you speak about it, Steve, actually where an employee is actually interviewing the employer because they’ve got this spoilt for choice and they’re thinking about what they can get out of this organization and how they can best serve that organization. Not being afraid to invest in the culture of an organization.

Ashley (15:05):
We did some research for generation zed and we looked at all these different elements of a workplace that that’s important for when they’re looking to go and work somewhere. The top five were, our number five was training. Number four was work-life balance. There was also in the top five, elements of purpose and organizations. The top one area that we found was workplace culture. That was again above those areas of workplace flexibility, of accessible leadership, of training. All these different aspects play into someone’s decision to go to an organization, but workplace culture was the number one. We’re seeing that because these next generation are delaying those traditional life markers, like having children and getting married. They’re starting their earning years in debt.

Ashley (15:48):
They’re living at home with mom and dad later into their life, which is why we call them a generation of KIPPERS, if you’ve heard that before. Kids In Parents’ Pockets Eroding Retirement Savings. All these aspects, they’re not as connected in traditional forms of community. They’re looking to the workplace to meet some of those other needs. That’s the culture piece. Another part we’ve looked at is the purpose of an organization. We often say, many young people don’t leave jobs because there is a compelling reason to leave, but because there’s no compelling reason to stay. If they’re looking at other job areas and even LinkedIn just every day, pops up, look at these other jobs that your qualifications or skills fit. They’re spoiled for choice and easy to find that on these digital platforms. Having organizational purpose and a culture that values that purpose is really key.

Ashley (16:35):
We also look at this, we call this the engagement equation. The last part of that is I for impact. A lot of organizations we find might have a really strong and vibrant culture where people feel like they belong and can contribute to the great purpose. If they’re not being celebrated for that and rewarded, and that doesn’t have to be monetary rewards, but it could be team coffees or team time together or breaks or whatever it might be. Other incentives, I think that’s really important. Another great way to think about it is I think if you got a great culture and people are working hard for the purpose, but they’re not being celebrated, that kind of people then can be on the road towards burnout, which we know is a really big issue in our workplace today, where it’s not traditional nine to five anymore. It’s taking laptops home, it’s working from airports.

Ashley (17:19):
There’s less delineation between work and out of work life. Making sure that you’re celebrating the people in your team and the culture that you’ve invested in to achieve that purpose. Investing in that is really key, I think, and that can really help to not just attract the great talent, but also retain it in this high job mobility environment.

Steve (17:36):
Yes, absolutely good stuff. Now, I want to take you back 15 years ago. I believe that if someone was looking to sell their property and choose an agent, there’s a very, very high chance that what they would have done is get hold of the local newspaper. They would see who’s selling the most properties, who’s got the biggest ads and so forth. Now that was 15 years ago. The world changed when Domain and came along because they started playing a bigger part in that decision making. Let’s fast forward to 2025, four or five years from now. What you’re saying, Ashley, is almost three quarters of the workforce will be millennials. What do you think behavior will look like when it comes to finding an agent, buying and selling property in 2025?

Ashley (18:34):
Yeah, it’s great question to think about. 2025 is not that far away. Seems like a really iconic futuristic year, but we’re hitting the stride in the new decade now of the 2020. I think what I’ve read and what I see in the research and even in the world today, I feel like it’s definitely going to be increasingly AI supported in terms of how to find… It’s almost that idea of AI is finding what you didn’t even know you were looking for, or giving suggestions, or interpreting your behavior. I think that’s going to be something that’s really key, but I guess a counter trend towards that is the role that humans play is still going to be really important. You see that in education and you see that in the next generation of they need to learn coding skills at school.

Ashley (19:17):
A lot of schools are changing curriculum around how to program robots and drones, but it’s also the inverse of that is that we still need the interpersonal skills. We still need leadership. We still need communication. We still need the critical skills of critical thinking and interpreting different situations. Those unique skills that machines can’t do, they’re programmed to predictive behavior and analytics, but those context-dependent, empathetic leadership, interpreting complex problems is going to be really key. I think it’ll be a really unique combination when we hit 2025 of increasingly sophisticated technologies to enable us to find properties that we want to purchase or move into the market with but also the need for agents who are in tune with people’s behavior and can connect really well. This older generations have this great ability to have great customer service.

Ashley (20:12):
I feel like the next generation who’ve grown up looking at a screen for a lot of their lifetime aren’t as well equipped with that. Even for organizations, how do you draw on the vast skills of your older employees, as well as your next generation? Even that cross mentoring and how you can learn from different generations to thrive and withstand some of those changes that might come over the next decade. I think those two things would be really important.

Steve (20:35):
Excellent. Now you’re joining me on the Digital Live 2020 program. I’m looking forward to that. Now, people want to connect with you and find out a little bit more about your company and the insights you offer. How do they go about doing that?

Ashley (20:51):
I work for an organization called McCrindle. Our blog is probably the most famous aspect of our organization. We tend to do a lot of commissioned research for organizations in the sectors of NFPs, to education, to corporate. We house as much as we can of that on the blog as well. Our website just got a whole breadth of information from infographics and reports on different sectors and some of the changes so I recommend heading there. It’s probably your best bet. That’s

Steve (21:20):
Excellent. Ashley Fell, thank you so much for your time today. Really valuable insights. Appreciate it a lot.

Ashley (21:27):

Digital You is brought to you by LJ Hooker.

How do you connect best with consumers where they are most, on their devices? And how can you use the social media platforms they're on to build your profile, fill your pipeline and win more listings? Digital You is a six-episode podcast hosted by Australia's most respected digital real estate expert, Steve Carroll.

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