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.