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How to work with millennials

Bonnie Gardiner | March 27, 2015
Millennials – they're disobedient, they ask too many questions and I can't relate to them. Does this sound like you? If so, it's high time you made working with this fearless, tech-savvy age group a top priority, because if they're not working with you, they're with your competitors, and you're going to lose valuable competitive advantage.

It's no surprise that this new wave of young people create some friction for older CIOs, but as the IT leaders of the future, it's time to embrace your millennial counterparts, make them feel welcome, and more importantly, keep them engaged.

The CIOs of the future will be more diverse, and have a vastly alternative outlook to many IT trends like technology innovation, security, management style and career planning, according to the 2014 Harvey Nash CIO Survey.

This generation came of age when technology was already centrally important to strategic growth, and have barely known a time without email. IT workers raised in the internet age idolise figures like Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg and Jack Dorsey, while being raised to look up to the likes of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

Experience with millennials

Bridget Gray, managing director for recruitment firm Harvey Nash, says she speaks with up to 10 CIOs every week, and working with millennials is a frequent topic of conversation.

"It's either that 'they're absolutely driving me crazy, they're really hard to manage, I wish they'd do their job' mentality where there's frustration around their unwillingness to just be a good corporate citizen and follow protocol. Or it's 'aren't they amazing? Their creativity is absolutely infectious. I love that they haven't got a fear of failure, we've never worked with someone who was more risk averse'."

Regardless of your opinion of millennials, some of the best ideas are coming from employing this different demographic, but it's how you manage them that will make all the difference. CIOs need to be proactive and pragmatic in their approach.

"We have a technical and creative team comprised of all ages, including many millennials, and overall our experience has been extremely positive" says Kelly Ferguson, CIO for Mi9.

"Generally we've found millennials to be highly educated and fearless. Our experience has also seen millennials having a bias toward working with teams and a tenacity that can handle fast paced change.All of these qualities make millennials an asset," says Ferguson.

Benefits of millennials

Mat Doughty, general manager of technology for the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX), has also frequently worked with millennials, often challenging them to discover a new and better way of doing things.

"I think that generation just have no fear when it comes to challenges," he says.

"They aren't afraid of hard work and I don't think they need to be spoon fed. My experience has been - you set the goal or target and just release the reigns and they find a way to get there, with a pretty creative result.

Ferguson too has seen a creative focus on change and innovation working with millennials at Mi9, remarking at their general adaptability.


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