IT and Millennials: It’s All Good

With their desire for quick answers, use of personal smartphones in the office, and yen to solve problems on their own, millennial workers are a boon to the IT departments that serve them. Pro or con?

Pro: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em

The Millennial generation—those born in the 1980s and later—were raised in a world where answers were available with just a few thumb clicks. Now those Millennials are bringing similar expectations into the workplace, wanting near-instant responses and resolutions to tech issues. While this may seem daunting, IT should view it as an opportunity to rethink the traditional support model and build more efficient and effective support centers for everyone.

Millennials are in the forefront of the mobile trend, but they’re not the only employees bringing in their own mobile devices and working outside the office. By adopting multi-platform support tools that allow IT to remotely manage and fix nearly any type of device, no matter where it is, IT departments can better prepare themselves to support all the smartphones and tablets flooding the market.

A recent survey my company conducted with GigaOM Pro and Isurus Market Research found that Millennials seek help with IT issues from outside sources, often turning to Google before contacting their support departments. This means problem solving comes in part from Millennials’ need for speedy answers, as well as from their desire to understand problems and possibly fix them without help. IT managers can use this self-sufficient attitude to their advantage.

By engineering self-help centers to behave more like the search engines, social networks, and forums to which Millennials gravitate, IT can increase self-help and reduce calls to the support department. IT should also leverage screen-sharing technology that allows end users to watch IT professionals fix their computers or mobile devices and thereby learn how to do so themselves.

It’s well documented that Millennials prefer instant text-based communication such as text or chat over traditional phone or e-mail. In fact, our research showed that six out of 10 Millennials said the telephone was not their first choice; more than half listed chat among the top three choices. By encouraging end-users to contact IT via chat vs. the phone, support reps can help multiple employees simultaneously, greatly improving response time and productivity.

Con: IT Support Is Left out of the Equation

Millennial employees have a different way of operating, which often creates friction with current IT policies. Although they don’t intentionally circumvent or reject IT policies, their habits often work against the way IT needs to operate to keep the business productive and the company’s data and systems secure.

While their self-sufficient nature is commendable, the Millennials’ tendency to turn to outside sources to solve tech problems leaves IT in the dark about individual issues, making it nearly impossible to identify systemic problems. Essentially, if IT doesn’t know the symptoms, it encounters difficulty diagnosing the disease. This leads to slower discovery and resolution of major problems, which could cause employees more problems and ultimately extend the time to final resolution.

Additionally, implementing advice or fixes from outside sources often causes more harm than good. Exploring the Internet and downloading unapproved programs could compromise data security or open the door to malware. Outsiders providing advice in online forums don’t know the specifics about users’ devices, applications, and networks, limiting their ability to provide proper resolution. And by providing specifics about their problems in online forums, Millennials could inadvertently share private data that could put the company at risk.

According to our recent research, 60 percent of Millennials think 10 minutes or less should be more than enough to address an IT issue. With more complex issues, this time frame is simply inadequate in many cases. It’s important to resolve the issue properly, not slap a Band-Aid on it.

While there are always opportunities for IT to improve operations, in some cases Millennials will have to reset their expectations. IT can help do this by providing better explanations and training around IT policies, from videos for new employees to monthly tips via e-mail. If each group respects the other’s needs and learns to bend a bit, IT and Millennials can bridge the divide.

Opinions and conclusions expressed in the Debate Room do not necessarily reflect the views of Bloomberg Businessweek, Businessweek.com, or Bloomberg LP.

Reader Comments

jobu

Seriously? What is it with the media obsession to categorize people of different ages into neat generational groups. Let's see, I was born in 1982, so therefore I must think and act a certain way. I am embarrassed for the so-called journalist who wrote this simple-minded garbage!

jdlong

Of all the trolling blog fodder I've read this week, this one takes the cake. Come on Bloomberg, don't troll for content by setting up false dichotomies just to drive faux engagement. Thinking readers see right through that. The role of corp IT and how it responds to users who are used to getting things done quickly online is a really interesting topic and some heavy hitters like JP Rangaswami are weighing in on the topic. But this troll chow published above is annoying.

Tom in VA

Jobu,

While I can understand the limitations of broad strokes, there has been some very commendable research done in the field of generational study and segmentation. Specifically, the Strauss-Howe Generational Theory serves as a great framework to help understand people's attitudes and behaviors better.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strauss-Howe_generational_theory

aarkayne

So if i were someone born in the 60s and turned to Google to find solutions to my tech issues since my support group is prone to following a standard script, what would that make me? A MilleXial?

Agree with Jobu above, a simpleton's simple minded conlcusion.

MoCoPride

Agree with Jobu and AArkayne. I was born in '75, so I am, as the media labels go, a Gen-Xer. Next time I have an IT-related issue, I should quell all natural curiosity and forget Google exists just so I can act my age! One more thing, Bloomberg, I wish you'd stop writing garbage like this, especially the slideshow article a couple months ago explaining "why" Gen-Xers are unhappy. It's so nice to see a "positive" article that sums us up as unable to support a family on one income, stupid enough to have bought a home in 2005, lacking the skills for work/life balance, and too oblivious to embrace social media. How about spreading the wealth and write an article on why boomers have to work into their 70s and why Gen-Ys are unemployed...or better yet write something positive!

Sherman McCoy

I think the only important thing to take away is that Millennials have zero patience and zero interest in working with resources available inside a company. Why do corporations hire them in the first place? Boomers work twice as hard and know how to follow procedures. The last thing I'd want as an employer is somebody who thinks they are smarter than everybody else.

Westernfan

If the difference between a "Google Solution" and going through IT were a matter of minutes, or even hours, we wouldn't be having this conversation. At many companies, IT staffing has sunk so low that even "critical" issues can easily take days to have addressed.

With regard to an earlier comment, why would you want to hire anyone that wasn't smarter that everyone else? And yes, Boomers can be smarter than everyone else and still follow procedures.

Mike Brown

To be honest, I don't understand a lot of the cons. We use agile methods, and agile development methods go hand-in-hand with Generation X and Generation Y's standards for working. Only some oversight, keep requirements and control lean, develop, test, and deploy iteratively.

I'm a young project manager in the DC area, and I can say there are plenty of people from Generation X who just put together quick fixes, slap a band-aid on issues, "to see a bug is to fix it."

What I believe everyone in the IT field needs to be taught is a proper workflow for fixing issues, triage that must be performed, and finally a solid configuration management plan.

slayerwulfe

I decided to delay comment hoping it would never be read.

Why would any of you come to the conclusion that 'media' has determined what we are. We are the product of the society of our youth.

Grandparents and parents: I don't like their religion, clothes,music, movies, or food simply because I grew up in a different world and I'm a statistic of it.

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