Meet Your Future Employee

Recent grads are bold, brash and tech-savvy, but they lack some key skills today's IT departments can't do without.

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"We have different expectations about what a work environment should be like," says Dodge. "I think a lot of us hope the age of the daily commute, the 9-to-5 workday and the cubicle farm are in the past. Certainly, with new technology, there is less of a need for the centralization of work production in an office, so long as the work gets done."

The SIM Foundation's Pickett isn't the only IT executive to say that kind of thinking is much too optimistic, if not downright deluded. Anyone looking to eventually reach a high-level management job in IT or finance -- or nearly any field, for that matter -- needs to be in the office, Pickett says. A lot.

"You can't develop relationships from afar or show leadership from afar. If you want to learn about the business, you pretty much have to be there," Pickett says. "To develop relationships with key executives, you've got to be in front of them. And you can't learn leadership skills unless you're watching how others lead."

Still, smart companies are aware of the misalignment and, where possible, are beginning to implement new policies and procedures to bring their work environments more in line with Generation Y's expectations.

Give 'Em What They Want

That's not to say companies should kowtow to the unreasonable demands of a new generation. Rather, they need to be open to embracing new work styles and finding some sort of middle ground.

"Large organizations that simply try to maintain their way of doing things in a monolithic fashion and which don't listen to and learn from younger folks are going to have problems attracting, retaining and motivating talent," says The Work Design Collaborative's Ware. "Companies have to change a bit."

Sciele Pharma is taking that message to heart. The company, where the average worker is in his mid-20s, equips its employees with state-of-the-art laptops and cell phones and has also implemented a variety of flexible work programs.

For instance, employees can adopt an alternative schedule, if approved by Banks and their managers, where they can work from home one day a week or come in between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. and leave as early or late as they want, provided their work is done. Employees work 36.5-hour weeks, the company closes at 4 p.m. on Fridays, and workers are able to leave at noon the day before a holiday.

IT people in particular have the option of working from home. Those who have operational-type responsibilities -- monitoring and troubleshooting systems or doing EDI work, for example -- are encouraged to work at home a day or so a week and are given the equipment to make that happen, says David Bennett, IT director at Sciele Pharma. Those with development jobs are eligible to take advantage of flextime as well.

"Any job that lends itself to routine operations or where there is a need for a lot of solitary time to dig into a problem, [those employees] can work from home as long as it doesn't interfere with any planned meetings," Bennett says. "It creates benefits for the employee and the environment and makes for a better quality of life."

With quantifiable kinds of roles, Sciele can easily measure employees' results and hold them accountable, which in turn helps the company monitor whether its flextime arrangement is working, Bennett explains.

As progressive as Sciele Pharma may be, all of its work/life balance programs have essentially kept it in the hiring game but not necessarily given it an edge. "Employees today come in with these expectations," Banks says. "This has helped us retain our workforce, not attract a new workforce."

Stackpole has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

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Copyright © 2007 IDG Communications, Inc.

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