How Can CIOs Help Their Staff To Better Understand Millennials?

CIOs have a responsibility to teach their staff how to manage millennials
CIOs have a responsibility to teach their staff how to manage millennials
Image Credit: Scott Lewis

As the person with the CIO job it is your responsibility to make sure that your direct reports are doing a good job of managing their staff. After all, collectively these are the people who make up your IT department and your ability to deliver on the importance of information technology depends on their abilities. If you have a lot of turn-over in your IT department, then something is not right. You’re going to have to take a careful look at how your staff is managing their millennials.

What Do These Kids Want?

Right now in the IT department there appears to be a disconnect between the management team and the workers. More often than not, the managers are older and are part of either the Boomer generation or the so-called “Gen X”. The younger people in your department who are actually doing the work are more often than not part of the millennial generation that was born in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The reason that this disconnect has happened is that it’s all too easy for today’s managers to not fully understand what the millennials are looking to get out of a job. We tend to think that millennials are looking for what everyone has always been looking for in a job: a paycheck and some form of job security. However, in the case of millennials it turns out that they are desperately looking for the work that they do to be meaningful. They need to understand what its impact is going to be. Millennials also need a great deal of feedback. A once-a-year annual review is not going to cut it for this crowd. Finally, they hate voicemail. Don’t use it to connect with them!

One of the big problems that a lot of people in the CIO position are having is that they are seeing a great deal of turnover in their IT department staff. The management team in your IT department needs to take the time to understand the millennials that they are managing. You don’t want them to make the mistake of resisting or ignoring their influence. As the CIO you need to find a way to fully engage your workers in what the company is trying to accomplish. This means that you are going to have to identify a so-called “noble purpose” and then communicate it to everyone.

What Is The Best Way To Manage Millennals?

All too often when people in an IT department want to get people to support their program or their plan, they’ll show up with an armful of numbers and then proceed to walk everyone through them. This approach does not work with millennials who can quickly become bored. A much better approach with this group is to use stories. Stories about how what the millennials are working have affected other people’s lives are the best ones to tell. This is a powerful method to communicate to your millennials that the work that they are doing really matters.

Another issue that is very important to millennials is the ability to control their working hours. The standard 9 to 5 seems to be too restrictive to them. Smart CIOs realize this and they search for ways to provide millennials with the ability to have more control over their work schedules. Allowing them to set flexible schedules and do things like take Friday afternoons off can help to stem the turnover that many IT departments are seeing in their millennials.

Millennials also want to know who they are working for. Having the “head guy” (or gal) locked up in some corner office somewhere does not allow them to connect with the company that they are working for. Instead, senior IT management (this includes you CIO) needs to be more visible. This interaction between management and staff can also be improved by changing how company status update meetings are held. Instead of dry presentations, include contests, give-aways, and employee recognitions.

What All Of This Means For You

As your company’s CIO, it’s your responsibility to create and maintain a functional IT department. If you are experiencing excessive turn-over in your youngest workers, you will be struggling to accomplish the department’s projects and commitments. The staff that you have working for you is responsible for creating a work environment that the millennials want to be a part of. How to do that is the real question.

Millennials are IT workers who were born in the 1980s and the 1990s. They are looking to get different things out of their careers than those who came before them. What this means is that they want to make sure that the work that they are doing is meaningful. You need to create a “noble purpose” that your millennials can rally behind. Millennials respond much better to stories than to number. Allowing them to have control over their working hours can be a big help. The IT senior management needs to make sure that they are viable so that the millennials feel as though they know who they are working for.

As the CIO, you’d like to hire the right people for your department and then move on to solving other problems. However, if you have excessive turnover in your Millennials then you are going to spending way too much time working with your team to fill those empty positions. You need to work with your staff to get them to understand the right ways to manage their millennial workers. Take the time to understand what millennials are looking for from your IT department and you’ll discover that they will stick around longer.

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

Question For You: What do you think is the best way to find out what the millennials in your IT department are currently thinking?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

So there’s no question that this whole social networking thing has become very, very popular. No matter if we’re talking about Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, or any one of the other social networking sites that are out there, the rapid growth and constant usage of social networking has shown us the importance of information technology and made it a part of our everyday lives. However, as the person with the CIO job you need to be asking yourself a very important question: should you be taking steps to introduce social networking into the workplace?

As the person with the CIO job, it turns out that you have a daily job in which you are the person who is responsible for keeping control over your company’s data. Not only do you have to make good decisions about who can get access to the company’s data, but you also have to take the time to educate the rest of the company on how to behave ethically when it comes to dealing with company data.