Tuesday 17 February 2015

Everything we know about millenials and Knowledge Management is wrong.

Everybody thinks they know how Millenials prefer to work in Knowledge Management terms.  Turns out, these common views are wrong. 

Plot from CBRE workplace strategy study, 2014
We all "know" that Millenials love social media, love collaboration, hate formal meetings and dislike email. Baby Boomers on the other hand are supposed to be strangers to social media, and much prefer emails and meetings.

However according to this study from Global Research and Consulting, dated October 2014, all of these are myths.

For example, as the plot on the right shows, Millenials want more informal collaboration, but only to the same extent that Baby Boomers do.

Millenials are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to want more formal meetings, and to want more email.  Also the boomers are considerably more likely than the Millenials to want more social media interaction (48% as opposed to 30%).

Plot from CBRE workplace strategy study, 2014
Maybe, you might think, this is because the Boomers are not using social collaboration as much as the Millenials at the moment, and want to get in on the action?

Not so, according to this second plot.

Millenials and Boomers are currently both equally prone to spend their time on virtual collaboration. Boomers on the other hand seem to collaborate more than the Millennials both face-to-face and informally.

What are the lessons we can draw from this?

Firstly, do not make any assumptions about the way people prefer to interact based on their age, unless you have good data to back it up. I suspect a lot of the views on generational differences have been based on assumption rather than research, as all the studies I have seen to date show, like this one, that age makes little difference (see here for example).

Secondly, just treat everyone the same within your Knowledge Management program. Don't try to predict how they will behave and what their behavioural drivers are - ask them instead.  Treat people as individuals, not as arbitrary groupings, and seek to change the culture one heart and one mind at a time.

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