Millennials leading shift in workplace technology, expert says

The influence of millennials is changing technology in the workplace dramatically, Gretchen Park, director of global human resources, T. Rowe Price Group, Inc. told Greater Baltimore Committee members at a recent GBC speaker series event.

These tech-savvy individuals born after 1982 — the so-called millennial generation — are shifting the way organizations communicate and interact, Park said. Terminology like ‘blog’ and ‘instant message’ is quickly becoming the standard for communication. “If you don’t learn these skills, you will become isolated in the workplace,” she said.

Park predicts that during the next decade, virtual communication will become just as important as traditional office communication. However, new media will not replace in-person meetings, but rather lead to an increase in face-to-face interaction. “The more we communicate with machines, the more we will be communicating face-to-face,” Park said.

A major benefit in this transition is the migration from people-based to topic-based interaction. Traditionally, sharing information in the office required knowing who to contact, and was dependent on the availability of others. Now, millennials are forcing the workplace to use new technology to gain instant access to all information related to a specific topic, Park said.

Social networking in the workplace is also changing. Millennials use technology to make initial connections before meeting face-to-face. “They are more comfortable talking live after a virtual connection has been established,” Park said. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, and LinkedIn are becoming the medium for millennials to build business and personal relationships.

Millennials do not follow the traditional notions of social organization or hierarchy in the workplace, Park said. They are highly collaborative and believe in an office environment based on ability and talent rather than position and age. Their familiarity with technology helps lower the barriers to connecting with others across town, or across the globe, Park said.

When managing millennials, Park recommends using the baby boomer generation as mentors. Managers should give feedback and positive reinforcement, but expect some discomfort with negative feedback. Millennials have difficulty dealing with responsibility, accountability and setbacks, and are not very receptive to constructive criticism, Park warned.

This is due to a phenomenon known as ‘helicopter parents’ – a parenting style of preventing any harm or failure from befalling their children, or letting them learn from their own mistakes. Companies should always consider parental impact on career decisions when working with millennials. “It is not uncommon to have parents directly involved in the hiring process,” Park said.

Millennials are also very civic minded individuals, Park said. In a recent Cone Millennial Cause Study survey, 64 percent reported that a company’s social/environmental activity makes them loyal, while 81 percent volunteered in some way during the past year.

“Millennials want a company that is socially responsible,” Park said. “They are not going to work for someone they are not comfortable with.”

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