Strategic CIO // Executive Insights & Innovation
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1/8/2009
09:46 PM
Bob Evans
Bob Evans
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Gen Y Stays Plugged In But Feels Boxed Out

They work afterhours but aren't allowed to use all their skills; they're on the front edge of mobile technology but aren't permitted to fully exploit that for competitive advantage; and they feel their 21st century skills are being lost in a workplace constipated by 20th century thinking. Are CIOs stifling the leading-edge skills and potential of the Gen Y workforce?

They work afterhours but aren't allowed to use all their skills; they're on the front edge of mobile technology but aren't permitted to fully exploit that for competitive advantage; and they feel their 21st century skills are being lost in a workplace constipated by 20th century thinking. Are CIOs stifling the leading-edge skills and potential of the Gen Y workforce?Looked at from one perspective, these findings from a new study can come off as the whiny complaints of a self-absorbed bunch of video-game addicts who aren't ready to grow up and face the rigors of the grown-up workplace. And while, as with the results of all surveys, there could be some truth to that when applied to outlier respondents, I think that type of close-minded interpretation can be deadly in these times when all businesses are rapidly changing how they create, design, source, build, market, sell, and serve.

In such a high-change environment whose dynamics were massively affected first by the Internet and the Web and more recently by social and mobile tools, can we really afford to ignore or underutilize a set of employees and partners and customers who assimilate all those complex new tools and approaches as easily as they do oxygen? I sure as heck wouldn't want to bet my career on such a stance. But some folks surely are, as shown in this excerpt from an article announcing the survey results:

A total of 39 per cent of Gen Y workers said employers place too many restrictions on employees in terms of not allowing them to download applications and programs, and 34 per cent said there were too many restrictions that made it impossible for them to use their computing skills.

And, while there are slackers in every generation, this survey of more than 1,000 workers aged 18 to 29 reveals that almost a quarter use their computers outside the office to extend their work for at least an hour a day, and another 12% put in between two and five such extra-office hours daily.

In the article announcing the release of the study, Lise Dellazizzo, a VP at one of the companies that conducted the research, offered a couple of comments about the risks companies face in not compromising with this new type of worker. And while Dellazizzo infuses her remarks with more New Age fluffery than necessary, ignore that and focus on the core of her very important message:

"In order to empower these individuals we have to first be willing to change. For CIOs that means a willingness to deviate from the status quo, to lessen focus on resorting to control-based mechanisms as a means of containment and to be less risk averse while more efficient with managing risk. ...They are highly connected and increasingly global -- which means that '9 to 5' is a notion of the past. Inhibiting this generation from using their skills to their fullest capacity is reducing our productivity and enforcing a false parameter of activity that ends abruptly at the office door."

So to show I'm down with the youth scene, let me, uh, "rap" this up with a little modern-talk ditty of my own:

It's time to put the prohibition On that type of inhibition And to stop all this stifle-ation Of our Gen Y generation!

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