When you're young, being told that you seem very mature or older than your years is generally seen as a compliment. But once you pass a certain age, this drifts more and more into the area of insult. At that point in life people would much rather hear that they seem younger than they are, or at least that they're young at heart.
That's why I was especially interested in a report that our sister publication Baseline reported on recently. In an upcoming survey, Symantec and Applied Research-West interviewed workers in both Generation X and the new generation of workers born after 1980, which they refer to as the Millennials.
While the survey results that Baseline reported on were interesting, on a personal level I was very happy to see how much my own responses matched up with the Millennials despite the fact that I'm on the older side of Generation X. All right! These twenty-somethings are my people! I knew I was born before my time.
Seriously, though, the results of the survey look to be definitely interesting, especially for those who are managing IT now and in coming years.
Here are some of the key takeaways from Baseline. Millennials are much more likely to bring mobile devices into work and connect them to work systems and resources. They are also much more likely to install and use unsupported applications on company systems and they are more comfortable using social networks and Web-based collaboration systems.
If you're an IT worker, those first two points can be pretty worrisome. The last thing IT wants to see is a lot of rogue applications installed on company systems or unsecured devices that can be easily used to take company data off-site.
On the plus side, if this survey is correct, then the Millennials are a little bit more security-conscious than their Generation X coworkers, meaning that hopefully they will be a little more aware of and willing to follow security best practices.
To me, though, the key area in this survey, and in how this new generation will work with technology, doesn't involve people like myself or most likely you. I'm pretty sure that if you surveyed very tech-savvy Millennials, Gen Xers and even Baby Boomers that there would be very little difference in their answers and, more importantly, in their actual usage of technology.
Really, the important area to focus on will be on the other end of the spectrum, meaning the level of difference between tech-neophyte Millennials and tech-neophyte Generation Xers.
Face it. Despite the fact that we Gen Xers like to view ourselves as the first Internet generation, we all have friends and coworkers who are as technologically incompetent as our parents and grandparents. In comparison, the average low-level Millennial tech user is probably more on par with Generation Xers of medium tech sophistication.
This will be a key difference in managing IT workers going forward. Because in most companies, the workers who eat up the most IT hours tend to be the ones with the least in the way of technology skills.
Sure, people who think they know everything about tech can be a pain, and there are definite security risks to workers who treat company resources as if they were personal property.
But I think IT, and technology in general, will benefit from the first generation that, instead of being afraid of technological change, finds it comfortable and familiar.