millennials are digital natives, but not digital addicts

Myth: Millennials are Digital Addicts and Avoid In-Person Communication

Millennials are digital addicts. They post Instagram photos from the dinner table, check Snapchat before they get out of bed in the morning and are more concerned about losing their phone than losing their wallet. Combine this with their inability to have a face-to-face conversation, and, well… the essence of humanity hangs in the balance.

Not so. Studies repeatedly have shown Millennials appreciate in-person engagement through their daily interactions, and in the workplace a strong majority prefer to interact with colleagues in person.

Millennials appreciate flexible schedules and the ability to work from anywhere, and they incorporate digital technology into almost every aspect of their life — but they say digital doesn’t outweigh the value of having a real conversation as part of building strong relationships. Communication for Millennials is not an either/or proposition with digital and in-person. It’s both.

Today, all generations are digitally dependent, but Millennials are the only generation that literally grew up with the internet, search engines, texting, and social media. This makes their interactions with technology more comfortable and seamless with their daily routine. They are indeed, “digital natives,” but it does not means they replace digital interaction at the expense of face-to-face interaction.

Millennials Don’t Always ‘Prefer’ Digital Communications

While Millennials are used to processing a lot of digital information and some seem to have the ability to multitask more efficiently than previous generations, they don’t always prefer digital communication. Studies from the Pew Research Center show that although Millennials send more text messages than members of other generations, their use of the telephone is the same as older adults. And when they can’t figure something out, they would rather talk to a person than get help online. “For many Millennials, person-to-person contact is still a reliable and effective solution to their problems — not something they fear or avoid,” Nielsen Norman Group reported.

This applies in the workplace, too. A Fortune/IBM study shows that when it comes to learning new professional skills, Millennials prefer face-to-face interaction and in-person coaching and mentoring.

Additionally, although many people characterize Millennials as a generation of over-sharers, that same Fortune/IBM study revealed Millennials are more likely to draw a firm line between professionalism and personal sharing than older generations.

Other Generations are Digital Addicts, Too

It’s not just Millennials who love technology. A Nielsen study found that older generations of adults are just as addicted to their mobile devices. Baby Boomers are more likely to use technology during a family meal than their Millennial or Homelander (sometimes called Generation Z) counterparts. More than half of Baby Boomers (52 percent) have admitted to using technology at the dinner table – 12 percent more than Millennials and 14 percent more than Homelanders.

Tips for Managers and Employers

What does all of this mean for the people who manage Millennial employees?

First, don’t assume that Millennials are less communicative than other generations — but be aware that it may be through different mediums at different times. Millennials will appreciate employers and managers who have found flexibility in integrating communications technology in the workplace.

Second, be open to Millennials’ suggestions to new communication tools that can help them (and you) communicate. Many Millennials are using systems like Slack or Asana in managing projects and messaging co-workers about project statuses.

Finally, nothing will replace in-person communication. It’s still key for all employees to have the opportunity to have in-person meetings, and for Millennials, in-person meetings are the best way to show that you care about them.

 

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