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Tech-savvy college hires bring integration, communication challenges to IT workplaces

Fred O'Connor | June 6, 2013
Training methods tailored to the latest generation of IT workers help ease the transition.

College graduates receiving their diplomas this year were teenagers when the first iPhone debuted and Facebook allowed anyone to create a profile. As this tech-saturated generation enters the IT workforce their familiarity with technology -- especially consumer products -- can lead to communication and work style clashes with more seasoned employees who may not share a passion for digital life.

And while new hires are versed in current technologies like mobile, social media and cloud computing, these recent students may struggle adjusting to professional life. Managers and co-workers may too find themselves at odds when trying to communicate with people who are used to sharing ideas in 140 character bursts.

"If you look at the individual coming right out of school, they're born in the Facebook era," said Corinne Sklar, chief marketing officer at IT consulting and staffing firm Bluewolf. "They leverage technology and expect it to do something for them."

To solve these generational workplace differences, companies are turning to training methods tailored to meet the specific challenges facing college graduates and their managers and co-workers.

Athenahealth, a cloud computing vendor in the electronic health-record market, instituted a mentor program last year that pairs new software developers with more seasoned co-workers who discuss the transition from campus to cubicle. New hires also have weekly check-in sessions with their managers where project prioritization is reviewed, and they attend time and project management classes.

The goal, said Tara Griesbach, senior manager of recruiting, is to bridge the gap between academic and work life. The Watertown, Massachusetts, company is hiring graduates from the class of 2013 to work as software developers and user-experience designers, among other positions.

Some college graduates may find their first foray into the work world daunting and need help finding their place in the office, said Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing firm Modis. Market demand and a generational mentality mean these workers will leave a position if the fit isn't right, making thorough training essential, he said.

"They need somebody to channel them [in the right direction]. That's very critical because in many cases we have higher levels of attrition with the recent workforce because there's more demand then there might be supply right now," he said.

Companies accept that this generation -- trademarks of which include strong collaboration and entrepreneurial skills and creativity -- may require more direction since their background can help the business, Cullen said. "Employers are recognizing the value of their creativity and how research-minded and able to gather that research they are."

Recent college graduates aren't the only group that requires an orientation, he added.

"There has to be as much training for the employees and the manager as there is to train the worker on the environment they're coming into," he said. "These folks have been users of technology from their first breath. It's a completely different world that they've come from."


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