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Why Google Isn’t Your Friend

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By 2025, Millennials will make up three-quarters of the global workforce, bringing with them new ways of working and career expectations. Striving to better understand their needs in the workplace is surely a worthy investment for the future.

Not many modern tools provide a window to the human mind like search engines. Every day, Google answers trillions of our burning questions; from mundane ones like “what time is it”, to curious ones like “why is the sky blue”, to seemingly unanswerable ones like “what do men want”. Google has an answer for everything.

Research suggests that when answers are needed, most humans now tend to turn to search engines rather than traditional resources like encyclopedias or dictionaries. Sometimes, we trust Google over our very own collective knowledge and memories.

Millennials (aged between 22-35 years) are more likely to use search than those in the 40-and-above age bracket. Because so many use Google on the daily, Google has become a breeding ground to see what’s top of mind for this next wave generation. What can those questions tell us about the inherent psychology of this cohort? How specifically can they negatively spill into their work-life? And what can you do about it?

Perhaps what most distinguishes millennials from past generations is the blunt imprint of a digital childhood and adolescence. This generation has done a lot of learning and growing on the internet. And since technology has been so ubiquitous to them, it is little wonder that it has become the more trusted source of knowledge– more accessible than any teacher, mentor or even spiritual leader, if any of the many deeply existential questions that millennials Google regularly are anything to go by.

The danger with the internet is that one can easily find an opinion that reinforces any belief they hold, whether right or wrong. Every Google search result can be interpreted as Gospel truth. Every like and retweet can reaffirm a thought or opinion.

Not only is it harmful to the individual, but when online tools like Google are used in this way by your younger employees, its influence can also be pernicious to the organisation. Basic rules and conduct can become negligible and even subjective. Consultation, teamwork or company policy can be forsaken at the click of a button.

According to Google, some of the most popular searches by millennials include questions like; “What am I doing with my life”, “how to be a better person”, “how to become rich” and “how to advance my career”. Now all these are great questions to ponder. After all, if you’re not growing, you’re dying, right? The problem is, the cookie-cutter answers that each of those searches brings up are more often than not conformist, self-serving, and totally inadequate to a person searching for real purpose in the context of their reality. Don’t believe me, try it for yourself.

Millennials are continually confronted with chasms of emptiness online, and yet, they return to technology, seeking to find answers. So could it be that maybe they’re not even looking for answers? Could they be looking for guidance instead?

As explored in a previous post, millennial workers value among other things, feedback. Blame it on access to Google, or the echo chamber of social media, but curiously, millennials themselves don’t tend to ask for it. Gallup research reports that only 15% of millennial workers ask for routine feedback. In total, only 17% of millennials report receiving meaningful feedback at work– the kind that helps them learn, grow, and do their jobs better.

Clearly, there are deeper answers millennials are searching for than what Google can provide. Can they find it in your workplace? How can you set an environment for it? How can you encourage growth for your younger employees through meaningful feedback? I explore this question and more in the next piece: Feedback: Fuel That Sparks The Millennial’s Flame.


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