Why Millennials Aren't Disrupting The Workplace - InformationWeek

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IT Leadership // Team Building & Staffing
Commentary
11/21/2014
09:06 AM
Charles Galda
Charles Galda
Commentary
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Why Millennials Aren't Disrupting The Workplace

The millennial generation won't turn your office on its head, but it will complement the technologies already in place.

Statistics from the US Bureau of Labor predict that by 2015, millennials will overtake the majority of the workforce; and, by 2030 this hyper-connected, tech-savvy generation will comprise 75% of the workforce.

Think about that. In a decade and a half, three-quarters of your co-workers will have been born between 1980 and 2000. At the same time, baby boomers are delaying retirement and working side-by-side with people young enough to be their children, creating a new dynamic in business. Will the imbalance tip the scale and completely change the workplace as we know it?

There's no doubt the generation of millennials is fundamentally different from generations past. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, 63% of millennials believe the success of a business should be measured by more than just its financial performance, with a focus on improving society among the most important goals. And according to various expert reports millennials are the biggest and one of the most culturally diverse age groups in American history at about 80 million people. So they have influence.

[There's no model for building the perfect team, but there are Essentials For Supporting High Performing Employees]

But I don't believe their influence is enough to create revolutionary changes to American businesses in the way we think, and I don't believe they will disrupt the workplace as much as everyone's predicting.

The reality is the workplace is a giant melting pot. Generation after generation of employees bring new technologies and ideas into the workplace, which means we create and adapt to the technology and policies already in place. Millennials are no exception to this previous ecosystem; they are not coming in and completely turning everything on its head. Instead, it is a give-and-take where the baby boomers adapt to millennials' new ways and millennials adapt to the systems in place.

Take mobility, for instance. It has altered and enhanced how employees work. But this new mode of communications did not happen abruptly and it did not create an immediate disruption of policies. Instead, its evolution happened in steps. Millennials will no doubt create and implement new and advanced technologies, but like generations past, these new technologies and business processes will arrive in stages, perhaps at an accelerated pace, but not overnight.

The only thing that remains consistent in the workplace across generations is change. As IT leaders, it's our responsibility to recognize the need for change, determine the best path to take, and communicate the vision to our staff. As part of this change, implementing new technology is not only to be expected but should be accepted as an ongoing process.

So how can you best manage this change of generations in the workplace? Know what makes them tick. Take a step back and look at the benefits your company offers this new workforce. For millennials, work is what they do, not where they go. Millennials sometimes view corporate structures as limiting factors, so create and provide meaningful opportunities for them as employees to do good -- whether it's through a donation match or volunteer days. While opportunities for service may not seem like the most pressing challenge for IT, the business leaders who successfully meet the needs of millennials will be better positioned to attract and retain these dynamic young workers.

The work world is always going to need to embrace the traits of new generations and millennials are just another example of this evolutionary change. Do not think of millennials as a disruption to the office. They don’t cause chaos in the workplace; rather they complement the trends already underway.

For example, millennials know first-hand the importance of using smartphones and mobile apps to get work done and bring a "mobile-first" mentality to the enterprise, whereas a team without millennials may have a bias to focus on other interfaces first. Accept and use the strengths of millennials to your company's advantage -- they are the most connected generation in history and companies can greatly benefit from putting their tech-savvy ways of thinking to use.

After all, before you know it the next generation will be entering the workplace with technology skills we've never dreamed of, and the evolutionary cycle will carry on.

Employers see a talent shortage. Job hunters see a broken hiring process. In the rush to complete projects, the industry risks rushing to an IT talent failure. Get the Talent Shortage Debate issue of InformationWeek today.

Charles Galda is the CIO for GE Capital's Technology Centers and Services. He is responsible for leading Technology Centers in Michigan, New Orleans, and India, comprising approximately 1,000 employees. He leads a variety of software COEs, developing applications that ... View Full Bio
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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
11/29/2014 | 1:07:41 PM
More power to them Millennials
The Millennials at this point seem to be a bit more altruistic than the Boomer generation whose numbers they have exceeded.  Hopefully, under their watch, society sees change for the common good instead of the monied, elite few.  And since Generation X has always been the redheaded, bastard, stepchild that has always been completely forgotten by the media, overshadowed by the attention whoring Boomers, allow me to mention it here now.  We do, in fact, exist.  We just don't have the requisite numbers to be considered important enough to even acknowledge. 
pfretty
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pfretty,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2014 | 11:33:54 AM
Helping it evolve
If anything the next generation is helping with the digital evolution. How organizations move forward with the convergence between mobile, big data and cloud will speak volumes in how well they have been able to integrate the millennials into the fiber. A recent IDG SAS survey showed that far too many organizations lack effectiveness at key big data tasks. Having more digital thinking professionals in the fold could help. 

 

Peter Fretty, IDG blogger working on behalf of SAS
SaneIT
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SaneIT,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2014 | 7:34:25 AM
Re: Balanced viewpoint
I'm not seeing that group out there.  I think maybe if you can find some knowledge workers in their 60s you might get a few that don't feel much need for a mobile device aside from making calls.  I'd say that if anything that 40-50 age range is more dependent on a mobile device than even the millennials.  To the 40-50 segment this is a tool that changed their lives not one that they grew up with.  They see it as a way to get more done where the millennials see it as just another tool.  There are a few things that I wish the millennials would bring into the office but technical savvy isn't on that list because from what I see most of them come from the consumer side and have difficulty shifting to an attitude that serves others with technology.
zerox203
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zerox203,
User Rank: Ninja
11/25/2014 | 12:35:46 AM
Re: Why Millenials Aren't Disrupting The Workplace
I see what you're saying here, Charles. I think people have a tendency to conflate the influence of millenial technology with millenials themselves. What previous generations lived through - the original advent of the internet, the civil rights movement, and more - is nothing to sneeze at, but in a purely business sense, mobile alone is hard to argue with as the most major game changer in a long time. Once again though, millenials are not the ones who designed these technologies - as Sunita points outs out, that honor belongs to professionals who were long since seasoned when millenials were born.

I think the theory about the change being abrubt and not dynamic comes from the idea that current business practices are plain incompatible with the way millenials want to work. It makes sense - a no-BYOD policy is not compatible with a BYOD-policy, for example. Those policies are the ones that will fade away as time goes on, but you're right, Charles - other ones will blend together and evolve. A smoother workflow (think DevOps) is good for everyone - but there are some important compromises to be made before we can apply that to every area of the business.

 
BillB031
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BillB031,
User Rank: Moderator
11/23/2014 | 9:30:49 AM
And on and on
Funny how this argument young vs old in the workplace has been going on for the last 100 years. It just morphs from one technology to another. My 80 yr old Mother can't understand how the country can survive without a paper phone book
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 7:16:07 PM
Re: Balanced viewpoint
I'm at the young end of that group. I would say that if knowledge workers don't see the advantages or needs of a mobile platform as part of their strategy, they've bigger problems that being a bit out-of-touch. You can believe that you'd never find use in a mobile delivery method, but still be intelligent enough to know that the overall strategy needs to include that. Even older knowledge workers need to realize that there is a vision that extends beyond their personal comfort level.
ChrisMurphy
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ChrisMurphy,
User Rank: Author
11/21/2014 | 6:14:24 PM
Re: Balanced viewpoint
Are there really loads of 40- and 50-something year old knowledge workers out there who aren't hip to smartphones, and who doubt the need to build for the mobile platform? Appreciate the perspective here. 
jagibbons
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jagibbons,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 2:30:46 PM
Re: Balanced viewpoint
Populating the vast majority of your workforce with only millenials is just a myopic in the long-run as never hiring someone from that age group. This is an area where companies make short-signed decisions on both ends of the age diversity spectrum.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 2:15:53 PM
Re: Balanced viewpoint
The balanced idea is necessary, however some giants of companies want less aged and overly abled software engineers and one of those companies is Facebook. I hope such standards would change so that there can be equal workforce balance.
SunitaT0
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SunitaT0,
User Rank: Ninja
11/21/2014 | 2:05:25 PM
Difference
There's a difference between being born and brought up into a tech-savvy world and witnessing the technological change. Millenials may be more tech-savvy, ofcourse they know how to play the xbox, how to handle an android, they know the difference between android, iOS and blackberry OS, but is that really necessary? Being tech-savvy and being technically up to date are two different things, and while the middle aged coding specialists can't win the tech-savvy race, their expertise is more than necessary in the world.
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