We must utilise the younger generation

Give young people a chance to prove their worth

Curious things have been happening with the usage of technology in the past few years. Ever since computers were introduced to big business in the 1950s and 1960s, the take up of technology has followed the same order.

First, the big companies bought the technology, used it to achieve their objectives and then introduced the results to their clients.

Next, the smaller companies that could afford it used the tried and tested technology and then introduced the results to their clients.

Finally, and often after many years, Joe Public got to use the technology in everyday life.

Now, though, the order has been reversed and big business is lagging behind the innovative ways that technology is being used in the home, particularly by young people.

Generation Y

Those born between 1980 and 1994, and even up to 2001, are often referred to as Generation Y. They are more comfortable with technology and are usually technically far more competent than older generations.

At work, they are often frustrated at the way their company uses technology, and can see much better ways of applying it.

Most companies do not realise the valuable and useful assets they have in young people and certainly do not make best use of their skills.

We have to give them a chance. There are several areas where Generation Y skills could be optimised. Companies could:

  • Help older staff understand more about technology by being coaches within their teams
  • Work with marketing to devise lifestyle products/solutions that suit this generation
  • Work on designing and building solutions that are more intuitive and hence easier to implement
  • Work on innovative approaches to how the business could run in future

Intuitive training

Generation Y will require far less training in how to handle technology than end-users have traditionally needed, but will still need training in how the processes hang together.

But maybe by devising more intuitive solutions the process training overhead could be reduced for all staff too.

Top management should give young employees a chance, and I believe surprising benefits will accrue for the firms that do this.

Firms could use young people on an internal ideas team. Their remit should be to understand the art of the possible with all new technology and new uses of technology.

They should then put forward ideas on how to apply this to the business.

However, being so conversant in technology they may ignore the normal rules of engagement. For example, a lot of the older generation ban their kids from using their computers because they wreck the set-up and cause problems for days afterwards.

This obviously cannot happen in a work environment. New rules of engagement will need to be devised to minimise this risk.

But it is vital that this problem should not be used as an excuse for keeping Generation Y in its place.

CV: Margaret Smith

Margaret Smith advises businesses and government on IT and skills issues. Formerly chief executive of CIO Connect, she was also CIO at Legal & General. She has been a non-executive director of insurance standards body Origo Services and sat on the UK Cabinet Office Portal Board.

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