Are CIOs Ready For How Younger Workers May Change The Office?

What happens when the younger set wants to run the office?
What happens when the younger set wants to run the office?
Image Credit: U.S. Army Garrison Casey

The makeup of the IT department has always been diverse. However, CIOs need to understand that as they hire more and more young workers this may end up having a significant impact on how the office operates. CIOs need to remember back to when they were young and understand that new workers see work differently than many of the older people in the IT department do. They have also had a different set of experiences before they arrived at your company. What all of this means is that CIOs need to get ready to work with a new generation of workers.

Change Comes To The IT Department

From a CIO point of view, all of these younger workers can be grouped into the same category. However, it turns out that there are actually different groups. These days it’s not all that uncommon for millennials to go seeking fashion and trending advice from your younger employees. Subtly yet undeniably, as generational shifts tend to go, there’s a new crop of employees in the IT department who are determining the norms and styles of the workplace. It turns out that they have no qualms about questioning all the antiquated ways of their slightly older managers. This can include everything from their views on politics in the office to their very obsession with work.

This is a fault line that crisscrosses industries and issues. Examples of changing behavior include a retail business based in New York where managers were distressed to encounter young employees who wanted paid time off when coping with anxiety. Additionally, at a another company, a Gen Z worker questioned why she would be expected to clock in for a standard eight-hour day when she might get through her to-do list by the afternoon and want to leave. Spanning both sectors and start-ups, the youngest members of the work force have started to demand what they see as a long overdue shift away from corporate neutrality toward a more open expression of values by the company.

What’s going on here? It turns out that these younger generations are cracking the code and they’re like, “Hey guys, it turns out we don’t have to do it the way that these old people tell us we have to do it”. The younger crowd believes that they can actually do whatever they want and be just as successful. Twenty-somethings rolling their eyes at the habits of their elders is a trend as old as Xerox, Kodak and home phones, but many CIOs said there’s a new boldness in the way the Gen Z generation is dictating taste. And some members of Gen Z, defined as the 71 million people born between 1997 and 2012, are quick to affirm that this characterization is correct.

Dealing With The New Generation

CIOs need to understand that Gen Z doesn’t hesitate. Back in the day, the movement of millennials from college into the workplace prompted a flurry of advice columns about hiring members of the headstrong generation. Over time, those millennials have become managers, and workplaces were reshaped in their image. Millennials like to point out that for a generation of workers who entered the office both during and after the 2008 financial crisis, and felt lucky to land any type of work, it’s unsurprising to see them place a premium on “hustling.” Gen Zers, meanwhile, are starting their careers at a different moment of crisis – in the midst of a pandemic that resulted in changes to the hours we work along with the places and ways we’re able to work. A survey of Gen Z job candidates found that more than two-thirds wanted jobs that will indefinitely stay remote.

These generational frictions are now particularly apparent in companies that are run by and cater to a largely millennial demographic. CIOs have noticed as they recruited Gen Z employees that some had no interest in the rigid work habits that felt natural to a company’s mostly millennial team. The youngest employees prefer to set their own hours. We all understand that the older generations were much more used to punching the clock. Many CIOs understand the instinct Gen Zers have to protect their health, to seek some divide between work and life — but some are baffled by the candid way in which those desires are expressed. We’re unaccustomed, in other words, to the defiance of workplace hierarchy.

Researchers call this the “kids these days” effect — and note that it has been happening for millenniums. It’s a natural thing that people tend to complain about everyone who is younger than them. This goes back to the Greek philosophers. Each new generation can strike the people who came just before them as being uniquely self-focused. Still, many CIOs feel that ignoring the divide between young and the slightly less young isn’t really an option. It turns out that it shapes hiring. It can shape marketing. And over the last year or so, it has shaped the way companies responded to a country in tumult. As the millennials have made clear through their own workplace ascent, very quickly one generation’s weird can quickly become the new normal.

What All Of This Means For You

The job of a CIO is to manage an IT department so that technology can be harnessed and used to allow the company to move forward faster and better. One of the biggest challenges that we are currently facing in making this happen is dealing with the simple fact that our IT department is adding younger and younger members all the time. These new workers may see the world differently than everyone else in the department does and this can start to cause problems.

CIOs are discovering that their youngest workers have a new boldness. They have no problems questioning why things are being done the way that they are done. This is not the first time that this has happened. Not all that long ago, the Millennials entered the workplace and they reshaped it in their image. The newest generation, the Gen Zers, are concerned about their personal health and they want to take steps to protect it. CIOs need to understand that their newest batch of workers are different and we’re going to have to adapt.

CIOs are responsible for the entire IT department. We need to understand that our department is a living thing. It is always changing, growing, and evolving. We have to understand that the people that we have working for us may now view the world differently than we do. There are more of them then there are of us and so we are going to have to be the ones who change. Take the time to understand who is working in your IT department and then change to be able to work with them.

– Dr. Jim Anderson Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Department Leadership Skills™

Question For You: What changes do you think that CIOs should make in order to work with Gen Zers?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Every CIO realizes that a key part of their job is to find ways to keep the bad guys out of the company’s networks. To do this we invest a great deal of money and time in setting up fire walls, implementing two-factor verification, and a host of other security features. However, I think that we all have to agree that despite our best efforts there is always the possibility that the bad guys may find a way to get into our networks. If that happens, what can we do? Some CIOs think that they may have found an answer.