How Has Technology Changed the Development of the Millennial Brain?

Written by Dr. Robert Smith | Oct 16, 2018

The Millennial Brain

Although I have not had the opportunity to scan the brain of a millennial, I have a good idea of how technology has changed the brain development of millennials entering the workforce.

The most important element that I can stress to you about younger workers applying for jobs in your company is they do not see boundaries like those of us from older generations.

Work in the office from 9:00 to 5:00 every Monday through Friday? Not anymore. Millennials expect the opportunity to work from home and at the office. Plus, they expect a schedule where they can work from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., 6:00 to 10:00 p.m., and finish tasks on the weekends.

Pursue one job for one company? Not anymore. Millennials might work for your company during the day, freelance at night, and pick up a ride-share gig on the weekends.

How about social situations? Millennials are not confined to face-to-face interactions to evaluate their social standing. Whereas older generations knew where they stood in the social hierarchy based on their peer feedback, millennials have to account for their Facebook likes, Instagram followers, re-tweets, and those occasional face-to-face interactions with co-workers and customers.

Additionally, because millennials do not routinely engage in face-to-face confrontations with people -- often choosing to confront individuals or companies online through email, chat, or Google Reviews -- the part of their brain that controls their ability to have critical conversations is underdeveloped.

How Education Affects Millennial Brain Development

The unfortunate reality of schooling is that students are taught to be dependent on themselves, rather than developing the ability to work in groups or teams.

The general guiding principle in schools is not to cheat, not to confer with a classmate during a test, and to be self-reliant in your studies. Certainly, I’m not advocating plagiarism and stealing the answer key. I’m saying that a prevailing thought has been reinforced to millennials not to use outside resources for gain.

In the business world, the opposite is true. Employees must be able to collaborate with other employees and work together to solve problems affecting customers. An employee who is unable to perform tasks in a group setting will not be as valuable as an employee who can stay focused on the task and enlist the help of others to complete a task.

Many of the millennials applying for jobs in your company are bringing their self-reliance and independent thinking to positions that may require more team-reliance and dependent thinking to perform well in their role.

If you combine the two concepts of disappearing boundaries because of technology and independent thinking taught in school, you have a group of younger workers who expect employers to understand what they want in the workplace and then be able to provide the type of work environment they would like to participate in.

The Reward System Skewed in a Millennial Brain

Following through on the concept of participation, millennials have been told that to be rewarded, they just need to participate.

Unfortunately, participation is not rewarded in the business world. There is an under-reported aspect of the labor force that many millennials do not officially enter the workforce because they never get their foot in the door.

After using technology to apply for hundreds of jobs online (participation!), they do not understand why they do not hear back from any prospective employers. They are so discouraged by a lack of feedback -- similar to how they base their social standing on feedback from online users -- they give up.

Millennials expect to apply to hundreds of jobs online, receive a response from a percentage of companies, receive at least one or two face-to-face interviews where they can wow the interviewer with energy, excitement, and fresh ideas, and then be hired to start working (from home) on Monday.

When none of that happens, millennials shut down because technology and education has created a reward system that is based on participation.

What’s the Solution to How the Millennial Brain Has Developed?

The good thing about millennial brain development is that younger workers are much more advanced to use technology than any other past generation.

The key for your company is finding candidates who have the optimal critical thinking skills to use technology in a productive and beneficial way for your company.

An assessment that is based on the science of axiology is a vital tool to help you unlock the emotional intelligence competencies of millennials. This objective measurement of an individual’s thinking will help you understand their motivations and behaviors to discover which candidate is the best fit for the role you are hiring for. Then, you can make an informed hiring decision.

You can also use the assessment results to help your managers understand how to manage, communicate with, and motivate millennials who are entering the workforce with a brain that has developed differently than past generations thanks to the influence of technology.

About the Author

Dr. Robert Smith

Dr. Robert K. Smith is the creator of the ZERORISK Hiring System, Clear Direction Management Development Program, Individual Contributor Development Program, and Clear Direction Team Directory and is a consultant for and adviser to ZERORISK HR. Known as a leader in professional development, team-building, and executive advisory services, Dr. Smith is the author of four books, including the award-winning management book Discover Your Blind Spots.

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