Technology, Work Ethic Causing Generational Office Friction

For older workers, digital communication is often seen as an inadequate, or worse, frustrating substitute for face-to-face interactions, Ricoh found.

millenials and it management

While nearly half of workers (48 percent) say younger employees usually have to help older ones at their place of employment use technology, about seven in 10 workers (69 percent) say younger workers are frustrating when it comes to work ethic, according to a study by Harris Poll on behalf of Ricoh.

The study revealed that for older workers, digital communications are often seen as an inadequate—or worse, frustrating—substitute for face-to-face interactions.

"Even as the economy has recovered, organizations are not necessarily adding head count, and everyone is feeling the pressure of doing more with less," Terrie Campbell, vice president of strategic marketing for Ricoh Americas, told eWEEK. "So in general, the frustration seems to come as a worker sees a colleague engaging in something like games, social networking, snapchats, etc. It’s a perception issue or a question among coworkers—is everyone carrying their weight? Furthermore, technology plays a role as it’s simply much more easily accessible."

When workers are asked to identify which generations make the best mentors, they generally choose their own.

In fact, those 18 to 34 years old (27 percent) are three times as likely as those ages 35 to 44 (8 percent), 45 to 54 (4 percent) and 55 to 64 (5 percent) to cite Gen Y—also known as Millennials—as the best.

"Based on experience from the 'technology team' within our Generational Council, technologies that do not provide an obvious reason to be engaged, like social networks for business, tend to become frustrating and cumbersome," Campbell said. "Technologies that provide an obvious connection to their job function tend to be much more comfortable or more highly utilized and less frustrating—unless they run into a glitch."

She said that overall, companies that understand how to support cross-generational engagement and mentoring will be most successful.

"It’s potentially less about a younger worker and more about a work style," Campbell said. "Today’s work style is gaining momentum because it’s the newest work style. As the Millennial mindset starts to gain traction and more people begin enjoying in that style, it will become more commonplace or the norm. Typically, those comfortable with technology are quite happy to help those who may not be."

According to the report, diverse world views, work styles and definitions of “work day” spotlight the need for organizations to focus on developing information mobility, a capability that helps employees—regardless of generation or work style—access the precise business information they need, in the ideal form and on the right device, to complete the task at hand.

"Technology will always evolve and it will go faster than ever," Campbell said. "I’m sure one of these days, Millennials will be frustrated by the newest technology. Perhaps it’s learning how to ‘beam’ to their next meeting or how to get the hologram to project correctly."