Managing a Multigenerational Workforce: Age Matters

New tools and technologies have always created displacement and disconnect. However, these days, the landscape is changing faster than the view from a TGV train speeding through the French countryside. The consumerization of IT has reached full throttle, and with it comes a tangle of complex issues, including who has access to data, how to best manage the data and how to get groups with very different mind-sets to work together most effectively.

It's no news bulletin that attitudes across generations differ greatly. Consulting firm Accenture describes Millennials--those ranging from their mid-teens to late twenties--as "rocking the foundation of information technology." In many cases, says Gary Curtis, chief technology strategist for Accenture, younger workers are thumbing their noses at IT policies, using nonstandard applications and "improving" things whenever and wherever they deem it necessary. There's a prevailing attitude that rules and policies are meant only for guidance, he notes.

An Accenture report, titled "Jumping the Boundaries of Corporate IT," found that 87 percent of U.S Millennials decide where they will work based on their ability to use state-of-the-art technology. Also, these individuals expect to use their own technology at work and tap into their preferred technology apps regardless of any compliance policy. A staggering 61 percent use social networking services that aren't supported by their IT department. In addition, 43 percent tap into nonsupported instant messaging, 31 percent rely on rogue open-source technologies and 26 percent use their own online collaboration tools.

At the other end of the cubicle row are Boomers and some Gen-Xers. A 2010 Pew survey found that only 20 percent of adults between ages 50 and 64 use social networking sites on a daily basis, up about 10 percent from the previous year. However, a 2008 AARP survey shows that older workers aren't quite the Luddites that some would make them out to be. It found that only 26 percent of older workers report that they have difficulty keeping up with the new technology required to do their jobs, and a similar proportion (29 percent) express resistance to learning new skills at this stage of their careers. (For pointers on how to make the most of your multigenerational workforce, see "5 Ways to Narrow the Age Gap.")

MIT Sloan's McAfee says the challenges extend beyond attitudes and the way different age groups think about technology. Radically different taxonomies and data structures have created a need to work in new ways--and use different technologies and tools as the navigation system. "People have to connect to data pools that simply didn't exist in the past," he says.

This article was originally published on 06-30-2011
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