Are Young People Struggling with Technology in the Workplace?
November 11, 2013 by Bill Rosenthal

Here’s a survey finding you might not expect. According to The State of Workplace Productivity Report published by Cornerstone OnDemand, 34% of U.S. employees report experiencing information overload. One quarter (25%) of them report experiencing technology overload. But that’s not the unexpected part. What is unexpected is that when the responses are tabulated by age ranges, it’s the youngest workers who are most likely to report these overloads:

“Millennials” (i.e., 18-34 years old) reporting information overload: 41%
Older generations reporting information overload: 31%
Millennials reporting technology overload: 38%
Older generations reporting technology overload: 20%
Technology strugglesThose gaps to me seem to be both substantial and surprising. Most of us assume younger people are more at ease with and in command of technology, since they have grown up with it and have not had to acquire an understanding of it like us older folks. And, in fact, the survey’s BYOD findings seem to confirm that – 56% of Millennials report using their own devices for work while only 39% of older generation workers do.

A majority of all respondents (56%) reported their workplaces had about the right amount of collaboration, and Millennials (at 58%) weren’t very far out of line on that question. But Millennials reported substantially more specific motivations to collaborate, including “positive recognition of the input I share,” a motivation driving 61% of them (as opposed to only 48% of the older generation workers).

When asked how they would like to collaborate, Millennials preferred phone and video conferencing at about the same rate as older generation workers (6% each). But they were substantially less likely to prefer in-person collaboration (60% vs. 75%) and more likely to prefer online collaboration (34% vs. 20%).

You can find the survey questions and tabulations of the responses in this PDF file. The survey was performed online, with participants responding to email invitations, so any response bias would probably be around motivation to go online. There were 1,029 respondents.

A fascinating profile of younger workers emerges from all this. Compared to older workers, the youngest employees are more likely to use their own devices at work and they are more easily motivated to collaborate with other workers. But they prefer online collaboration to in-person collaboration, and they report both information and technology overload more often than older workers do. Please use the comments section to tell us how you might use this information to increase the impact of your company’s employee training programs. Let’s get some discussion going about this.