My daughter, on the other hand, has only known a world with all these gizmos and more. Today, it is hard to believe that the internet, as we know it, did not exist before Netscape created the graphical interfaces that helped us see more than just code on a screen back in the early 90's . Yes, like my daughter, there are many young technology natives who were born at a time of rapid technological changes. These are now professionals being hired by our companies.
These techno-naturals come loaded with all sorts of acronyms and weird ideas about things that you have probably never had to deal with. These are the children of a wealthy nation. They have never experienced hardship when compared to all other generations. Perhaps more challenging is the fact that they will push their ideas harder than anyone else in your team. They feel entitled to get whatever they want. Don't be surprised if they even tell you, with a high degree of authority and confidence, the reasons why your business will disappear in a couple of years. They will call attention to your obvious lack of understanding of things such as four-square, or something like it. Good luck handling the new load!
An expected question would therefore be: do they bring any value at all? The answer is yes; with a caveat that they will force you to run a much better business in order to maximize their value.
IDEO. Perhaps the most creative design consultancy in the world, IDEO systematically solves product development and marketing challenges by deploying diverse groups with great individual expertise in their fields but with not much in common. The results are breathtaking ideas. They have purposely embedded diversity into their structure. While many teams actively exclude members who act or look different, taking the opposite attitude holds the best promise in business in a long time.
It is common for managers to struggle when handling opinionated individuals who prefer to rock the boat rather than just comply with the status quo. But having the energy to challenge a whole team is not necessarily a bad thing. Their efforts should be channeled in a way that best serves the company. For this, I have found that it is very important that managers have clear goals, a commitment to really empowering employees and the systems to create accountability.
There is a reason why most businesses stall when the owner or president is absent; something that these leaders admit openly. I must stress the importance of having a simple, clear and portable goal. It is also essential to constantly push it. It must be easy for any employee to see how their day to day activities can contribute to reaching such goal. If there is no connection between what they do and the company goals, perhaps the goals are wrong or the employee's activities must be immediately stopped. The right goals will allow everybody to gain pride from contributing to something important to all. What a better way to bring a new member into your team? Show that there is progress and that everybody counts; things that are important to techno-naturals.
Once the goals are set, each person should be allowed to drive the team there. This is where empowerment kicks in. Managers should be comfortable letting their people drive the bus to its destination; especially when these people are better at doing so.
I often hear employees complain that there is no empowerment within their company. Insecure micro-managers create the kind of environment where this can easily be used as an excuse. Most of the time, it is just because such managers do not know how to get people to act without taking the company in the wrong direction. This is where accountability systems are essential.
I love it when I get a new team member coming with all the energy in the world but who lacks any forethought. I think that there is simply no better way to make them valuable team members than through the use of empowerment and accountability. They usually love the idea of empowerment. Accountability, on the other hand, goes right through their ears... until they hit the wall. Typically, it takes missing the first mile marker for them to go through all the stages of emotional grief.
|Launch Elisabeth Kübler-Ross|
The difference between the employees of yore and the new generations is not about them but about your company; which at least from your perspective is what matters. Companies that have not developed superior productivity and effectiveness mechanisms will fail to maximize what techno-naturals bring to the business. The keys again are: clear goals, empowerment and accountability. The rewards are: better productivity and innovation.
Everything that I have discussed so far is quite serious (or even stiff), but techno-natives are not so serious people themselves. If there is something that they want to get out of life is fun. So, I thought of loosening the end of this post a bit by sharing a link to a very funny parody of the difficulty in communication to be expected between old school managers and their new-age warriors. Enjoy!