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Millennials View Education as Least Satisfying Segment for Empowerment, Workplace Collaboration

For young people seeking innovation in the organizations where they work, education as a sector may not be the most conducive environment. "Millennials," who make up a quarter of the current workforce, consider educational institutions the least innovative, at least when compared to retail, technology, healthcare and advertising, marketing and PR. This segment of the population, also known as Generation Y, were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s, putting them somewhere in their early 30s and younger.

Where there is innovation, 80 percent of those employed in education point to talented people as the primary source. Where it's lacking, 57 percent of millennials blame poor management.

Nearly half of this group — 46 percent — indicated that the school districts, colleges, and universities where they're employed have outdated collaboration practices. More than half said they believe their employers make it tough for ideas to be shared or taken to the next level. Sixty-one percent disagree or strongly disagree that their organizations have a "simple process" for converting good ideas from brainstorming sessions into a "productive outcome."

Those results came out of a recent survey of 600 millennials employed in multiple sectors. The survey project was run by SurveyMonkey and sponsored by IdeaPaint, a company that sells paint to convert smooth surfaces into dry erase surfaces for collaboration purposes.

Compared to other industries, education entities put an emphasis on "focus work" over more collaborative techniques that millennials tend to prefer. The industry scored the lowest (65 percent) in using brainstorm meetings as the primary means to generate "big ideas."

The survey's authors reported that education's "highly regimented structure" is hurting its image among younger workers. Only 56 percent of education-employed respondents said academic institutions were capable of supporting "spontaneous collaboration" compared to 85 percent employed in technology companies and 69 percent in advertising, marketing, and public relations.

Also, hierarchy is a problem. The education industry ranked last in engaging millennials for new ideas within their organization.

According to the report's authors, "Empowerment and accomplishment are key attributes millennials look for in a career, and education is currently failing in both of these categories."

As a group, the report stated, "Millennials are a tech savvy bunch that love to text, tweet, and practically do everything from their mobile device." However, it added, these workers also place a premium on their time and "will opt for the clearest road to completion for their work tasks and sometimes ignore workplace policies or hierarchy." For this reason, face to face meetings are preferred over "wasting endless cycles in an e-mail thread."

"The results of the [survey] both surprised and delighted us," said IdeaPaint President John Stephans. "We were thrilled to see modern workplaces learning to maximize millennials' potential by enabling their innate drive for efficiency. Tearing down overly hierarchical business models and creating hospitable environments for all ideas — not just the ones that come from senior managers — is a surefire way to inspire and attract young talent."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.