The early 80s were a time of brilliant beginnings. To name a few: the release of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the release of Pac-Man, the birth of CNN, and most relevant to ITIL, the introduction of IBM’s PC (personal computer). However, quite possibly the most important event was the birth of a people. The birth of a generation: The Millennials.
Defined as all those born in 1981-2000, the workforce has seen a significant influx of millennials over the past few years, as the entire generation becomes old enough to work. In fact, in May of 2015 it was reported that “more than one-in-three American workers today are millennials”, thus surpassing generation X to become the largest generation in the labor force. And, by 2020, it is believed that millennials will make up 44% of the workforce.
So there’s a lot of us. What else is there to know? Well, they absolutely love technology, and they’re always connected. 83% of millennials sleep with their cell phone on or right next to their bed. That’s right, they’d be willing to part ways with a peaceful nighttime dream just to see what that random notification is about.
Given this influx in the labor force and an unparalleled comfort around technology, you can expect to see many millennials joining your IT department. Let’s talk about what this means for managing your IT service desk.
Engaging Millennials as Your Employees
Dan Wilson runs IT services at a major automaker and has first-hand experienced with the influx of millennials within his own organization. “We’re having more and more millennials join our organization, specifically on the front lines,” said Wilson. “And as a manager, you have to obviously adapt your style in terms of ways that they want to be managed.”
The key word here is adapt. As managers, ignoring the influx of millennials and the change they bring to your culture would be a mistake. The necessary adaptation is two-fold, with one side focusing on managerial practices, and the other side on implementing certain philosophies to change the culture in your workplace.
Managing and Communicating with Millennials
Wilson was able to shed some wisdom about specific managerial practices, sharing his view on how to best manage this generation:
“So you end up changing your management style by being more nimble, by communicating more directly, and more succinctly with those individuals. You have to give them harder projects, and ultimately they expect more from you as a manager than many of the other generations did expect in the past.”
When delivering information to your millennial employees, Wilson explains the importance of giving it to them in quick, simple, and honest terms. And, if the task you’re assigning to them isn’t challenging, you can’t expect them to give it their all.
“They’re not real good at dealing with ambiguity, so they want more crystal clear direction,” said Wilson.
Look at it as if you’re climbing a mountain. For example, Mount Everest. The challenging part isn’t figuring out the path. There is no ambiguity as to where one should go to climb the mountain. I could print out a trail map from my own computer. The challenging part is making it through the path all the way to the summit. For millennials, it’s crucial to give them Everest-type challenges, where the direction is crystal clear, but reaching the summit is far from easy.
The ‘Millennial Culture’
While Wilson focused more on day-to-day conservations and management styles, it’s also important to focus on that thing that looms through the air of the office. You can’t touch it, measure it, smell it, meanwhile, you feel it: the culture. Millennials have certain values that can’t be ignored in company culture. Earning a paycheck might not be enough to convince them to stay at your company. So what can you do to keep them?
- Millennials have a very high social consciousness, with 90% attributing their buying decisions to a company’s social commitment. Additionally, 63% openly say they expect their employers to contribute to a charity or social cause. This dedication to social change falls under a theme that many millennials identify with: progressiveness. Look for creative ways to mix ITIL and social change, such as educating under-privileged students, offering free services, etc. “(We’re) a very progressive organization,” said Wilson. “Some of (our brands) are more progressive than others, but ultimately it is an organization a lot of people do want to work for, and they want to work with. So, it is a very attractive organization for millennials.”
- Millennials are free-range workers. Whether they’re on the beach, in a movie theater, or climbing Mount Everest, they want to be able to access their workplace. One way to ensure this unlimited access is by creating a BYOD culture, where employees can use their own devices, especially mobile phones, to work. Here’s a guide to introducing BYOD to your IT department while negating any security concerns. On the customer side, millennials’ connectivity will also mean that your IT service desk must be prepared to offer services through multiple channels in order to resolve IT issues. Your next service requestor could come from an instant message, a video chat, a mobile app, or a phone call. The endless possibilities of technology.
- One final ingredient to ensure your culture tailors to millennial employees is recognition and feedback. As Wilson explained, these young employees value direct communication. Millennials crave direct feedback, using it as their key metric for their performance in your company. IT departments should leverage their experienced IT employees and their mature guidance to develop mentor-like relationships with millennial employees. The resulting open dialogue can serve as a great space for constant feedback. Additionally, millennials seek recognition as validation for their performance. By giving feedback and recognition, you’re more likely to hang on to millennial talent. It’s an effort worth making — they’re called the “job-hopping generation” for a reason.
What if your IT Department Doesn’t Adapt to Millennials?
“They’re definitely assets to the team, they’re assets to the organization, and they’re the future,” said Wilson. “So, if we don’t adapt….we’ve all got problems.”
Seems simple enough, guess it’s time to adapt.
About Ilan Szulik
Read more articles by Ilan