A study from the Kenan-Flagler Business School gives us extensive insight about millennials along with some analysis by Matt Miller, a Forbes contributor (“Why You Should Be Hiring Millennials [Infographic]” 7/3/12). From that study, we learn millennials switch their attention among media devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones, and television 27 times each hour. For previous generations that number is 17. That represents an increase of more than 50%.
Are millennials just better multitaskers than their predecessors or are they moving faster but engaging less? Are they more focused or are they more distracted? What does this mean or what should it mean for our talent management?
I have read too much about multitasking to know it has its limits. Some insist it is a myth. I recognize for most of us, monitoring multiple activities simultaneously has some value and cannot be completely avoided. Nevertheless, I think we all know in our hearts and minds you cannot produce your very best output on something without a total focus on that specific something. Therefore, we must juggle—as intelligently as possible. Multitasking can accomplish some things, but not everything.
Millennials value their personal electronic devices because they value technology because they value social media because they value connection. Therefore, instead of fighting the flood, we need to surf the wave. You do not have to get distracted 27 times each hour (unless you want to do that).
As with every new generation, millennials do not do everything exactly as the prior ones. Nevertheless, if we are going to extract the full measure of millennial value, then we should all try to surf the wave. Hey, at least we will all be on the same wave.