Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Millennials and Technology: Addressing the Communication Gap in Education and Practice

Academic journal article Organization Development Journal

Millennials and Technology: Addressing the Communication Gap in Education and Practice

Article excerpt

The current landscape of knowledge delivery in higher education has seen remarkable changes from past decades with a shift from traditional models to an emphasis on market demands (Friga, Bettis, & Sullivan, 2003; Jackson & Chapman, 2012; Navarro, 2008; Pheffer & Fong, 2004; Rynes & Trank, 1999; Zell 2001; Schomaker, 2008). The issues affecting the labor market in the United States are elements that strongly influence how and what higher education institutions offer in their curricula. As technology continues to become more prevalent in all areas of the job market, higher education institutions also place a heavy emphasis on incorporating technological skills into curricula Email: wsodeman@martinmethodist.edu and classroom delivery.

These changes have strong implications for Organizational Development (OD) educators and programs. To remain competitive, OD programs and educators are forced to either adapt to changing trends or lose students to competing programs that have embraced these changes. The question remains: are current trends in technological knowledge delivery serving our students well by creating well rounded graduates and future employees? Previous research provides some answers to this question. Sevens (2005, p. 3) reports "High-tech companies in areas like Silicon Valley value strong communication skills despite the emphasis on skills in technology." This evidence-based statement provides a foundation for this discussion.

Research on the millennial generation, who make up the vast majority of today's traditional OD students, suggest that technology usage both in the classroom and through online applications are one of the best ways to connect with students. The literature emphatically supports technology in the classroom and curricula delivery, but with a constantly connected student body, researchers question the implications technology has on students' abilities to manage themselves and others effectively in the workplace. Scholars recognize that because millennials are so comfortable learning and adapting to technological change, that they are deficient in soft skills (Hershatter & Epstein, 2010; Jackson & Chapman, 2012; Meyers & Sadaghiani, 2010; Navarro, 2008; Hartman & McCambridge, 2011). Soft skills are defined as an individual's ability to communicate effectively through both written and oral skills, utilizing critical thinking and problem solving skills, and building and maintaining relationships with others (Sahni, 2011). The current emphasis on technology in OD programs may be pushing aside opportunities for students to develop the very skills future employers seek in graduates-the ability to manage people and relationships through strong leadership and communication skills.

This article seeks to address three main objectives. First, the current literature on the millennial generation is explored. Second, an investigation of the relationship between technology usage and the communication ability of millennial OD students is discussed. Finally, solutions that allow technology to work in concert with OD educators and practitioners to improve the soft skill ability of millennial students are presented and discussed.

When did students change?

"Kids these days. Just look at them. They've got those headphones in their ears and a gadget in every hand. They speak in tongues and text in code. They wear flip-flops everywhere. Does anyone really understand them?"

Eric Hoover,

the Chronicle of Higher Education

(2009, p. 1)

Each generation has its identifying characteristics that shape their assumptions through milestone social and cultural events and how generational members view the world, authority, and commitment. Baby Boomers (bom between 1943-1960) saw many highlights within U.S. history such as the civil rights movement, the lunar landing, as well as first-hand knowledge of the social and cultural turmoil concerning the Vietnam War (Mangold, 2007). …

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