Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Engaging with the Millennials on Your Project's Team

Engaging with the Millennials on Your Project's Team

By Dennis D. McDonald, Ph.D.

Click or tap above image to download a .pdf of this article.Reading How Millennials are Changing the Face of Consumer Marketing by Shelly Kramer got me thinking about project managementwhen “millennials” are part of the project’s staff.

A lot of what’s in Kramer’s  article isn’t really new from a social media and branding perspective. We’ve always known that you need to engage with target market segments where they live and communicate. It’s also useful to consider, if you’re a project manager, your project’s engagement strategy including how your project’s staff members and stakeholders communicate.

Do millennials — those in the 18 to 34 age group — need to be engaged with differently than, say, a 50-ish executive you’re counting on to provide strategic cover and funding for your project?

Depending on project roles what they need to know about the project might be different.

Let’s assume you already know that because you’ve done a good old fashioned RACI analysis. In the article Kramer references five things identified by the Boston Consulting Group (BSG) as characterizing how marketing to millennials is changing: reach, relevance, reputation, relation, and referral. What seems to make millennials unique compared with other groups is that millenials trust brands more and their perceptions of brands are shaped by a wider range of influencers than may have been the case before the Internet, social media, and mobile tech became so prevalent.

Kramer’s and BSG’s point is that brand related communication targeting millennials needs to take these expectations into account. For users of social media none of this is surprising but it is good to see our suspicions and first-hand experience again reinforced.

What does this have to do with project management and the project manager’s responsibilities regarding communication and information sharing? Keep in mind what constitutes a “project”: a group of people working toward a common objective based on an organized set of tasks, resources, and responsibilities. Different people have different responsibilities. One of the project manager’s jobs to orchestrate the overall process so that the final objective is achieved.

When talking about engaging individuals with the project team and stakeholders, it’s important to consider that projects can involve individuals being temporarily assigned to work with a group of people some of whom are strangers to one another. Right from the start this means that the “millennial” staff member — and all the others as well — may not have established a natural sense of trust with other team members. 

Project management needs to use all the tools at its disposal to move all the members of the project team and stakeholders toward mutual trust and a shared appreciation of project goals. There might be less of a challenge if the entire team consists of millennials who, right from the start, have a higher likelihood of communicating in a more collaborative and informal environment and with a greater reliance on mobile technologies.

As project managers are aware, however, projects often involve people of different backgrounds and with differing levels of willingness to adopt more open and collaborative communication styles.

Sometimes the differences in styles causes a collision involving delays, misunderstanding, and extra costs. The project manager needs to be prepared for such an eventuality and needs to “lead by doing” by showing the way on how he or she wants the team to communicate and collaborate. Often this will mean relying on a mix of media to set to support communication and collaboration that includes traditional (e.g., phone, email, meetings, etc.) and more modern (e.g., blogs, messaging, chat, tablets, smart phones) methods.

Even when the core team consists of tech-savvy millenials who are accustomed to a higher rate of online information sharing than other groups communications among all stakeholders needs to be taken into account in project communication planning. Does that mean the project manager needs to adopt a “lowest common denominator” approach to collaboration? Not necessarily, but it does mean that management needs to take into account the sponsoring organization’s existing communication and content management infrastructure. It also means that all individuals on the project team may need to accommodate and use communication methods that may be outside their normal comfort zone.

This is a topic I’ve addressed before (see Related Reading below) and will be returning to in future posts. Please subscribe here if you’d like to stay up-to-date on the series or contact me directly at for more information.

Copyright © 2014 by Dennis D. McDonald. 

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