Here Come the Millennials! Are You Ready?

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Wright noted that the use of Web 2.0 techniques paint the state's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as technically savvy while providing an inexpensive method of reaching out to potential workers across the world.

Wright said his unit is now considering requests for IM access.

"Being a state entity we have to be very careful of the data we collect," he noted. "Anything [like IM] opens us up. We need to be extremely careful that we're not opening a hole that someone could hack into and get some data that we're responsible for."

Wright and other IT managers noted that one of the most defining characteristics of Millennials is their desire to constantly learn new skills and to have access to bleeding edge technology.

Generation Y IT developers at the state agency, for example, are always eager to try out new tools and languages as soon as they are available. Wright noted that he often allows these employees to research the tools to determine whether they would benefit the organization

Wright said that he often has to explain ROI ramifications when rejecting requests for specific technologies. "We have to come to an understanding that there is that balance between the latest and greatest technology and being responsible from a fiscal standpoint," he said.

Linda Gravett, author of "Bridging the Generation Gap: How to Get Radio Babies, Boomers, Gen Xers, and Gen Yers to Work Together and Achieve More," noted that the Millennials she interviewed for her book were very clear in their reluctance to work for a company that lacks Web 2.0 and other emerging technologies.

Gravett agreed that IT organizations can have a hard time getting budgetary approval for expensive technology that is demanded by only a subset of the workforce, However, she suggested that IT managers keep track of whether a lack of such technology is prompting talented workers to leave.

With that information companies can compare job turnover costs to the price of new technologies to help justify a purchase.

She also advises companies to create focus groups consisting of workers of all ages to better keep tabs on technology needs.

Adam Sarner, an analyst with Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc., suggested that companies study how the workplace attitudes of Generation Y are significantly different than earlier generations.

A Millennial, he noted, is accustomed to using social networks and contributing his or her own content to the Internet. The generation also tends to judge people based on their technology acumen, Sarner said.

Thus, some of those workers may have trouble handling a traditional corporate hierarchy where some top executives lack strong technology skills. Generation Y workers are also more likely to contend that technology can be used to improve long established business processes, Sarner said.

"Some of the old ways of doing things are absolutely being questioned," he noted. "The workplace is going to have more explaining to do than 'This is the way we've always been doing things.'"

Alsop warned that IT managers must make sure that the new generation of employees use new technologies according to corporate dictates.

For example, workers just emerging from colleges appear to have far fewer privacy concerns than older workers, creating a strong need for training about the dangers of sharing corporate information online., he said.

The state of Missouri is in the process of developing new rules to guide employee use of virtual worlds or social networks. The new guidelines require that employees assume that activities in virtual communities are public and that any data posted online may be visible for a long time.

Also, any employee conducting business for the state in a virtual community must have explicit authorization from management, according to the new guidelines.

Despite the growing onslaught of the Millennial work force on the corporate world, some companies have not yet had to address the issue.

David Berry, senior vice president and CIO of Coty Inc., a New York City-based cosmetics company, noted that his company doesn't yet employ many younger workers, and that the IT unit has been too busy -- integrating companies, implementing new products and rolling out new applications -- to address the issue yet.

Nonetheless, Alsop warned that companies must start finding ways to address the needs of Millennials if they want access to the best new talent.

"More and more students are going to ask them what their technology environment is like," he added. "What will wake up companies to this is when they fail to recruit the students they want.

This story, "Here Come the Millennials! Are You Ready?" was originally published by Computerworld.

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