Isn’t a global recession just great? For CIOs it has been: it pretty much got rid of one of their biggest headaches – having their star talent leave. Now that things are improving, a new challenge is starting to show up for CIOs: how to turn their Generation X workers into the IT leaders that the company is going to need for tomorrow…
Why Things Will Be Different When The X-Men Are In Charge
Tamara Erickson has been studying the differences between the Baby Boomer generation (those people who were born just after World War II ended) and the Generation X (born between 1961 – 1981). It turns out that there are a lot of differences here.
One of the key things that will separate today’s Boomer CIOs from the Gen-X CIOs are the conditions under which they grew up. Erickson points out that because there were so many Boomers moving through the system at the same time, they quickly learned that they needed to compete for everything. Limited openings and opportunities meant that Boomers had to always be striving to be seen as being the best so that they’d get picked for the next opportunity.
Gen-Xers had a different experience. As they were growing up, a great deal of corporate restructuring was occurring. Even if they weren’t working then, their parents and the parents of their friends were. This gave them a front row to watch the impacts that layoffs had on both individuals and their families. This has resulted in Gen-X managers not viewing their current employer as being their final destination. They realize that at any time the company could decide that they are expendable.
How X-Men View The World
In order to be able to grow and cultivate the next generation of CIOs from the ranks of Gen-X leaders, today’s CIOs are going to have to develop an understanding of how this generation sees the world. It is much different from the way that that the boomers see things.
The Generation X leaders are harboring a great deal of resentment towards their Baby Boomer colleagues. One of the main reasons for this hostility is simply because there are so many Baby Boomers – they seem to be occupying all of the good jobs. Couple this with the recent global recession that caused many Boomers to put off retiring and you have a powder keg situation on your hands.
In a somewhat amusing turn of events, the Generation X group of managers also resent the next generation of workers – the twenty-something’s that are entering the workplace now. However, the boomers don’t seem to have the same issues – the boomers and the new workers have an almost parent – child type of relationship that the Generation Xers don’t seem to be able to take advantage of.
This all leads to the current situation that CIOs now find themselves in. Generation X managers are feeling frustrated about where they stand in the organization and what their future prospects are. This frustration is leading them to think about the one thing that a CIO doesn’t want them to think about – leaving. Finding ways to retain the next generation of IT leaders needs to be a CIO’s top job in the upcoming years.
What All Of This Means For You
For the past twenty years, the Boomer generation has been running IT departments. As the global economy starts to pick up and the Boomers start to approach retirement age, we’re going to see a dramatic change occurring in the CIO ranks. The Generation X workers will be taking over.
The Generation X leaders grew up in a different world and experienced different things than the Boomers did. Their view of their relationship with the company is very different than that of the Boomers. They realize that they are viewed as being replaceable and so they always feel that they can leave this job and find another, better one. IT departments are going to have to adjust to having a new management style running the show.
The changes that are coming as Generation X managers take over IT departments are going to fundamentally reshape both what an IT department does and how it does it. CIOs need to see these changes coming and they need to be taking steps right now to prepare the IT department for them.
Question For You: Do you think any sort of special hand-off is going to be required between Boomer CIOs and Generation X CIOs?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
If Steve Jobs was still with us, do you think that he might be willing to come and work in your IT department? He was supposed to be a jerk, but man can he bring some innovation to the table. CIOs who want to foster more innovation in their IT departments probably couldn’t get Steve to sign up with their IT team; however, I’ve got three suggestions that just might light the spark of innovation within your IT department.