Millennials Want Connectivity; So Do Businesses

In my previous article – Baby Boomers and Digital Natives Communicate Differently  – I wrote about how technology has given Digital Natives a rapid way of communicating that might be frowned upon by non-millennial generations. I wrote about this topic because I believe many people think about it. Whether you have children, grandchildren or are part of Generation Y, thinking about how technology affects those around you is important.

I was thinking about this as I read Tammy Erickson’s article, “How Mobile Technologies Are Shaping a New Generation“.  It is a fascinating article that touches upon the many technologies we use. that create mobility. These devices give “young people” the ability to take powerful technology with them wherever they go. You may have heard similar phrases such as, “My child’s cell phone is more powerful than my computer was in the 90s”. In my blog post I was mostly discussing Digital Natives who were born from 1980-1995 because I represent them; I was born in 1984. Even with my ability to keep up with waves of innovation in the world of social media, “internet of things”, or gaming, I have to admit things are changing rapidly. Though I’m truly a digital native, I feel this sense of change happening with the generation born after 1994 and who were around 13 years old when the first Iphone came out in 2007. I also feel the burden of trying to stay current with the latest gadgets in mobility. For example, I don’t yet own a smart watch, but I see many people who do. Often times we use only a fraction of the features available in those tiny devices, and part of being up to date with mobile technologies involves a relationship with the latest apps.

Tammy refers to those born after 1995 as the “Re-Generation”. Turning 12 in 2007, they were turning this age around the beginning of the global financial crisis (something Tammy writes about in a previous article).  She notes that while Bill Gates might consider anyone born in 1994 as “Generation I” (the “I” referring to “internet”), it is actually those born from 1980 to 1995 who, in their formative years, were adept at both using computers and navigating the internet.

Tammy explains how, in a world that is highly connected, this new generation – whether they realize it or not – are part of a world where everyone has access to pretty much anything.  I am a believer in technology making our lives easier and find there to be many opportunities for Generation Y and Z. For example, blogging has allowed greater sharing of food recipes, news reports and science literature. The internet has also increased the accountability for providing accurate information, since many experts can advertise their assessments on a single piece of info. You CAN find accurate answers online, you just have to know how to look. The great thing is that Generation Y and Z know how to look.

The article describes the depth in which mobile technology is embedded into these generations. What is interesting is that connectivity itself is a similar goal between what businesses want for their employees and what Generation Z and Y want socially. While millennials may have a social preference for being always-connected, businesses have a financial incentive for the same. This is why I think it’s important to highlight the strengths and similarities between what millennials look for in technology helping their social cohesion and what entrepreneurs seek for using technology to create better communication among employees.

The article delves into the statistics of how various mobile devices are more regularly used for children below the age of seven. Is growing up with so much technology a bad thing? Today I watched a video about an 11-year-old who produces music for EDM (electronica dance music). I assume he is adept at using technology. The tools he used were technological in nature, a piano or saxophone is also a tool used to create music. The great thing about technology is that it offers a greater quantity of options. For businesses, allowing employees a choice in how they best communicate is becoming standard.

Tammy shares the change that cloud computing has brought to the accessibility of content and the reduction in price along with it. She notes that free applications are common in a world where beforehand they would have been a large expense. This environment has given rise to Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Wikipedia and Google. Each of these have provided all of us with affordable (free) content to share and enjoy.

As Tammy says:

For members of the Re-Generation, access to unlimited content and endless activities and games is a fact of life.

She indicates that while Baby Boomers used technology to increase productivity, Generation Z is using it primarily to stay connected. Every generation is using technology to stay connected. Businesses are experiencing the competitive advantage of having a work force that communicates more effectively. Being able to collaborate and share files is just one example. The benefits of connectivity don’t only affect younger generations.

Tammy goes into detail on how anonymity changes connectivity, though I am unsure of whether there is enough evidence yet to say whether this is good or bad. Each of us have a desire to remain anonymous at different times (for example, who you vote for is not made public online). However a topic of concern from a technical standpoint is cyberbullying, where someone can perpetrate behind a wall of privacy. In these scenarios, however, anonymity can only go so far and repercussions for abusing it do exist. For example, you can be anonymous on a chat forum, but if you consistently display bad “online-decorum”, you could get reported by anonymous users (how interesting is that?) and ultimately be kicked off the site.

If you think about it, Generation and Y and Z are pretty cool. Actively engaging the talent within this group only promotes learning from both sides. They (we) are living in a time of boundless data. As Tammy says in reference to those generations:

They have had the experience of digging deeply into a burning question because they have access to a mountain of information.

Because of this, Generation Y and Z are going to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. I’m looking forward to seeing that happen.  

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