Five Ways Generation Y May Reinvent IT

By Elizabeth Millard Print this article Print

They've been called everything from narcissists to "Generation Me," but those wily post-Gen X employees might just show their elders how to revamp an enterprise.

They depend too much on their parents' money, they need constant hand-holding, they have no job loyalty, but do show remarkable acumen for demanding more than they're worth, showing disrespect for older employees, and displaying stunning naiveté about corporate culture.

The backlash against Generation Y seems to be in full swing while the ink on their college diplomas is still drying.

Much discussion has centered around the expectations and work habits of this particular generation, with some pundits fretting about whether their casual attitudes will sink enterprises in the long run.

*For more on what to be worried about with Gen Y on your corporate network, check out these stats from a Symantec study.

But what if the opposite is true?

Perhaps, instead of wreaking havoc, their different working styles might cause foundational changes in the way enterprises run, especially when it comes to IT. Here are five ways that Generation Y could pull up the roots of information technology in favor of something new.

1. More Savvy Technology Purchasing
Generation Y grew up with technology, and at this point, the Millennials and their gadgets and laptops are like hockey players and their skates and sticks, notes Kirsten Chapman, principle at KC Associates, a marketing and PR firm specializing in B2B IT products and services.

When Gen Y begins to hit middle management levels and find themselves in charge of budgets and purchasing, it could significantly change the way marketers and salespeople need to sell to them.

"These buyers know more about the benefits of technology than most of the product or service companies they're talking to," says Chapman.

In the past, Baby Boomers, and to some degree Gen X, have had to justify their technology love, in many ways. "We've had to convince the rest of the business that a certain technology was important," notes Chapman. "But Gen Y will be doing the opposite. They'll have an inherent understanding of where technology makes sense in an enterprise and implementing it."

Because of that fundamental connection to tech, Gen Y will be using technology to solve business problems far more aggressively and progressively than has been seen in the past, Chapman believes. And this type of buyer behavior could cause a shift in technology adoption curves, she adds.

2. Changing Job Roles and Responsibilities

The average timespan that a Gen Y employee will spend at any single job is about 18 months, notes Ryan Healy, founder of Brazen Careerist, an online career site aimed at Gen Y.

To keep a Millennial interested, companies will have to create an atmosphere for them that replicates the first six months on a job, over and over. "Most jobs provide you with a learning curve that's steep at first, then all of the sudden you're doing the same thing every day," says Healy. "It gets boring, so you leave."

The result could be more mentorship relationships, job share duties, and additional responsibilities created at a speedier rate than in the past. In particular, Gen Y will work to become managers at an accelerated rate.

"Everybody in my generation wants to be a leader," says Healy. "There are 22 year-olds who already say they want a leadership position, and they're ready for that. I think it's a pretty cool thing."

Putting Gen Y on the fast track to upper management -- particularly in IT -- may require an overhaul of current corporate culture, but it could also lead to fundamental shifts in hierarchy as well. Many executives espouse the virtues of collaboration, meaningful work, and a "flat org chart;" Gen Y will hold them to those ideas, and threaten to walk if they're not made manifest.

This article was originally published on 2008-03-18
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