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How to bridge IT’s growing generation gap

Minda Zetlin | Aug. 23, 2017
Deft leadership and management skills and a lot of empathy are required to balance the priorities and expectations of millennials, baby boomers and the Gen X-ers stuck between them.

Providing a more modern customer experience is only part of what he means. "On the one hand, it's about enabling new business models and optimizing processes, and on the other hand, it's about increasing user productivity and satisfaction by providing a modern work environment," he says. "The expectations of end users have changed significantly, especially for the new generation of millennials. I definitely bring a new mindset with me versus traditional IT, which will also help us to attract young talent for the company."


What do millennials want?

The hunt for talent is the second major force pushing employers to cater to people under 35. Given demographic realities, most companies will have a tough time hiring employees with the skills they need if they can't appeal to this age group.

As Saueressig says, the desires, priorities and values of millennials often differ markedly from those of their older colleagues. Some of the differences are simply due to the fact that the people in the two groups are at different stages of their lives, but others result from the fact that the millennials came of age in a very different world. Either way, IT leaders point to a few things millennials often seek but that matter a lot less to older tech professionals.

1. They want to be part of the big picture. Where older employees might be happy in individual roles, millennials want to understand the larger context of their jobs. "This young generation is high-context," says Monika Fahlbusch, chief employee experience officer at BMC Software, a business service management software company headquartered in Houston with annual revenue of more than $2 billion. "They'll want to know, 'I'm here to what end? Why does this make me important as an employee of this company?'"

"The prospect of working in an IT environment is not that attractive to someone coming out of school," adds Kim Smith, chief digital officer at Capgemini. "In their minds, traditional IT is the help desk." Smart companies, she notes, are responding by expanding on traditional IT roles, blending in other functions such as product development, or rotating IT employees through other areas of the company.

Jenn Prevoznik, head of SAP's Early Talent Acquisition program [2016] 
Jenn Prevoznik, SAP. Credit: SAP

"People want to join a program. They want rotations," says Jenn Prevoznik, who heads SAP's Early Talent Acquisition program. "Hiring them into a role doesn't do it anymore. You have to hire them into a role, plus give them an experience."

2. They want to work in a collaborative environment with frequent interaction. "My older employees are singletons," says Antonis Papatsaras, CTO at SpringCM, a 10-year-old contract management company headquartered in Chicago. "They want to be assigned a task, go work on it for a couple of weeks, and come back with a solution. Millennials want constant feedback."


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