At a small business Ben runs on the side, newer tools like Twitter, Facebook and blogs are a given in terms of marketing. "It's a lot better than going to another conference and hoping somebody stops by my table," he says.
And young workers often move seamlessly between platforms, starting a conversation on a social network, for example, and continuing it via text. One consequence of this always-on, mobility based mindset: Workers expect to have access to their own information at work, and to work information at home; and they expect to use the devices and services they like, which can cause tension with security- and standards-minded IT departments. "They are used to change, and they don't like waiting for tools; they want things instantly," says Schneider, who is thinking about starting a blog to communicate more effectively with his team. "We need to be more flexible as an institution to deal with that reality."
Cornelio, like many CIOs, has been cautious about allowing messaging and social networking services, and he has misgivings about the culture of partial attention in which they thrive. "We need to make sure these things aren't detracting from the understanding of complicated financial information," he says. But he sees the writing on the wall. "If we're going to allow people to train online or through interactive Web sessions, we will have to find ways to accommodate these new ways of working."
Surprisingly, says Erickson, it is the Gen Xers who feel most threatened by the new technologies the younger cohort uses so readily. Boomers get credit for making an effort, but the group in the middle is expected to take easily to things that are new to them. "The pressure isn't on the boomers to be technical whizzes, but it is there on the next generation," she says." Orren, 35, feels the pain of the squeeze play. "We're the straddlers," he says. The millennials are digital natives; they were born into this stuff and we're expected to get this as well as they do. Meanwhile, the boomers aren't expected to get it."