Millennials Demand Changes in IT Strategy

Companies are increasingly forced to bend to Generation Y to get the best young talent.

Like most generations before it, Generation Y -- those born between roughly 1982 and 2002 -- has been stereotyped based on a cultural change identified with its era. In this case, the group is united by a hunger to use the latest technologies to communicate.

These digital natives -- also known as millennials -- are natural multitaskers, often simultaneously texting on a mobile device and instant-messaging on a PC without removing even one iPod ear bud. Many of this generation can't conceive of communicating without an instant messaging system or social network.

Now that members of Generation Y are graduating from college and entering the workforce, they're bringing with them a slew of technology demands. In fact, in many cases, they research the technology portfolios of potential employers before agreeing to schedule job interviews.

Because this generation's demands are vastly different from those of earlier groups, many companies are struggling to find ways to satisfy them. Businesses that don't may find themselves struggling to hire and keep the most talented young workers, say some experts who have studied Generation Y.

Ron Alsop, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up, said that many recent entrants into the workforce face a culture shock from Day One. Alsop's book, due out next month, looks at how the new generation is already shaking up the workplace.

The first millennials are often landing in offices without IM technology or access to social networks, Alsop noted. It's possible that these employers are avoiding new technologies because of security concerns or budgetary constraints, but in doing that, they're sending up instant red flags for new workers.

"Companies really need to loosen up a bit and not play Big Brother too much by worrying about blocking certain social networking Web sites," Alsop said. "Companies have to realize that they need to meet millennials halfway."

Some forward-thinking large organizations are making moves to become more technology savvy, he noted.

For example, a group of recent MBA graduates hired by Johnson & Johnson successfully lobbied the New Brunswick, N.J.-based consumer products company to create an internal social network, according to an advance copy of Alsop's book. The network has grown to include virtual classrooms for training and a career counseling center.

The company is now looking to broaden the network beyond its MBAs, Alsop wrote.

Meanwhile, Alsop said in an interview that Capital One Financial Corp. in McLean, Va., is creating internal discussion boards and its own version of Wikipedia in an effort to improve worker collaboration. And New York-based Ernst & Young LLP has developed a guide to help managers interpret IM shorthand.

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