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Millennials could change ‘hero’ mentality in IT departments, says Gartner

Analysts say the generation of millennials entering the IT workforce will create a more collaborative working environment

A new generation of millennials entering IT departments will shake up the way infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams work, according to experts at Gartner.

Milind Govekar, chief researcher at the analyst, told delegates at Gartner’s IT Infrastructure, Operations Management and Datacentre Summit in London that the individualistic “hero” mentality among IT staff needs to change – and this is being driven by the recruitment of younger team members.

“We are having millennials joining our workforce,” said Govekar. “In some ways this is good because in infrastructure and operations, we are a very hermit culture – we just look at our own silo. What we need to become are socialites, and millennials will hopefully change some of that thinking.

“This means moving away from that ‘hero’ culture we have had, to more of a team culture where we work together. How many times have we said that before? We clearly need to move from that confrontation and blame [environment] to working together in a collaborative way.”

Govekar said younger employees could also provide new perspective and ideas, a process he described as “reverse mentoring”.

“Maybe new recruits have some skills, they have some capabilities they can bring to your organisation in terms of new thinking, in terms of how they collaborate,” he said.

Tiny Haynes, Gartner research director of infrastructure, said organisations can benefit from the “experience versus enthusiasm” of young recruits to create a more collaborative working environment.

Entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan, also speaking at the Gartner event, said an individualistic environment in the workplace can have an adverse effect.

“For decades, we used to believe the best way to manage people at work is you get the high performers and you put them all into fantastic departments and projects and you get them to compete furiously for recognition, for bonuses, for promotions,” she said. “We found that instead you create huge amounts of dysfunction, huge amounts of aggression and huge amounts of waste.”

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Govekar said so-called “versatilists” will become more common in the workforce, with Gartner predicting that by 2020, such employees will make up 40% of I&O departments. He described versatilists as those who can marry experience from different roles and critical thinking with “absolutely critical” communication skills.

“We need to be particularly sensitive in I&O in terms of building those communication skills,” he said. “This means you really need to have more versatilists, which means people who have multidisciplinary experience of roles and capabilities but they have synthesised to create a knowledge base that they can apply in a wider context.

“We are looking at people who can not only interact with others, but also interact with artificial intelligence beings and software and virtual personal assistants.”

Heffernan said employers trying to recruit new staff for their I&O teams should identify a growth mindset in candidates, not a fixed one. She defined a fixed mentality as people who do not take risks because of the fear of failure, which means they cannot learn by their mistakes. 

“Those people were great once – but they are useless to you now, however talented they are, because they won’t take risks and if they make mistakes, they will blame other people,” she said.

“Given that in five years from now, they are going to be working with computer languages that haven’t even been invented yet, you want people who are hungry to learn, undaunted by mistakes.”

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