EducationOne of the most often expressed criticisms of Millennials is that they seem to have lost all ability to analyze data, examine the logic of a proposition, or read a blog and sort out the good and the bad in the argument (not necessarily with this blog, of course). Usually described as “critical thinking,” this type of skill seems to be absent from a generation focused on sharing, communicating and finding group consensus. Indeed, one of the traits older generations find most annoying about Millennials is their constant checking in with friends to find out what the group thinks, rather than making a prompt and decisive choice on their own. Thoughtful, decisive decision making is a key skill for leadership.

Thanks to the accessibility of technology, it’s become increasingly clear that Millennials are less confident in forming their own intelligent, and independent thoughts. However, in a technology driven world, where Millennials obtain all their answers to problems at the click of a mouse or swipe of a finger, the reliance on technology to solve every question confuses people’s perception of their own knowledge and intelligence. That dependence may well lead to overconfidence and poor decision-making.

To solve these critical thinking challenges, here are three areas the JKS Group, your Millennial Workplace Expert, can help employers focus on to develop the skills of their Millennial employees:

Education

The lack of critical thinking skill development has not been lost on Millennials. Despite an education system enrolling over 15 million students, and conferring over two million degrees yearly, college graduates have overwhelmingly discovered they lack the core virtue of critical thinking in the workplace.

1,600 graduates from ten colleges and universities were interviewed in a study by the University of Washington’s Project Information Literacy titled “How Today’s Graduates Continue to Learn Once They Complete College.” The study revealed that 73 percent of Millennials expressed that they lack the skills to frame critical thinking questions.

Although over 70 percent of those surveyed agreed that the college experience instructed them how to mine for information and sort that information, most are unable to put that information to its best use.  In the absence of this vital critical thinking skill, many Millennials find themselves burdening co-workers for advice, and employers are tasked with providing critical training.

Many Millennials are entering the workforce exceptionally educated, but unprepared for the real world challenges that they will face. Millennials can help themselves by taking advantage of opportunities that will allow for this skill development before they graduate. Many colleges offer internship programs, work study, and career centers students can utilize. Employers should try to identify institutional changes that they can support to promote this skill development.

Training

Employers can alleviate these problems by investing in training for Millennial workers. While employers can’t change the education an employee has received, they can create companywide educational programs that expose young workers to problem-solving, and critical thinking from day one.

Investing in such professional development should be a requirement for any Millennial employees. Millennial employees will thank you for it. Most Millennials say they prefer a job that offers professional development. Millennial workers say they are more interested in, and satisfied with, receiving on-the-job training than making more money.

Not only will such training keep Millennials satisfied in their jobs, but making problem-solving and brainstorming activities an ongoing part of training will also foster critical thinking and innovative results at your workplace. After the formal training is complete, employers should establish a means for employees to continue to share best practices they’ve learned in the field. This will not only create a real-time problem-solving community, but also deliver continuous improvements to foundational training materials and activities. Learning at their own pace, Millennials will learn to think critically, while contributing knowledge and solutions to their fellow coworkers along the way.

Culture

The overall goal of professional development is to empower young workers to become more productive, informed and innovative future leaders. However, these efforts are meaningless if organizations neglect to create a culture that motivates employees to reach outside their comfort zones. Once trained, Millennial employees need to be given opportunities to put their critical thinking skills to the test.

Millennials need to learn to step up and into new roles where they feel comfortable with not only problem-solving using technology, but also staying ahead of the curve and assessing future needs. Employers who take the time now to evaluate how their organizations can help young employees think critically without “Googling the answers” will transform those employees into productive, innovative and strategic decision-makers for the future.

Critical thinking skills are essential for productive employees and dynamic working environments. The JKS Group, your Millennial Workplace Expert, can help you develop these skills in yourself or your team.
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