young professionals

A lot has been said over the past several years about the changing of attitudes in the workplace brought about by younger people, specifically 'millennials'.

We are told that recent graduates enter the workforce with a sense of entitlement. That they value the opportunity to have an impact and show creativity over such time-honoured values as loyalty, and hard work. 

Those of us in the workplace recognise this as the fearful mutterings of one generation seeing itself being replaced by the next. But it is true that as technology has changed to empower individuals, working practices have changed.

And young people entering the workforce with little expectation of a job for life (or even a pension and a home of their own) expect and value different things to those of us who are working in order to earn a comfortable third act.

The reality is that every generation brings something new to the workplace, and although the pace of change is quickening in human capital just as it is in technology, there is much to be said about learning from the bottom up.

Here are some of their key learnings in terms of how to embrace millennials in IT and digital.

Give everyone a voice

It doesn't matter whether you're managing a team of 40-somethings, second jobbers or millennials, you should always make sure people have a chance to contribute and share their ideas. 

But particularly with young people, as their voices often get overlooked. 

Greg Morley, CIO of United Living is hugely positive about working with young people but believes that to engage them fully you have to give them the opportunity to be heard by involving them in projects that affect the wider business.

'Ensure capture of experience from new starters (from competitors or graduates). Ensure younger audience is not only heard but is also given a place at the table.'

Be flexible

One way CIOs could support younger talent is by offering flexibility in their roles.

Introducing a work from home policy and discounts to gyms can help strike a healthy work-life balance, if there fits in with your office culture.

CIOs should encourage communication through scheduling one to one meetings, giving feedback and having appraisals to help identify an individual’s strengths and weaknesses. This can help engage employees and retain talent while also avoiding a work overload.

Provide opportunities to learn

Technology businesses and IT departments should consider in-house training to its younger employees, as it can help retain IT talent and even secure a better performance in their day-to-day tasks.

Investing in digital training through placements, courses and internships can help refresh and develop their skill sets while demonstrating their full potential as an employee.

Businesses should support their younger employees through investing in their talent and digital skill sets. While providing new opportunities to employees can help retain younger employees it can also help create a diverse workforce and drive the creative thinking for future innovation.

Develop the work culture

CIOs should have an open approach to ensure younger talent feel welcomed and valued within the organisation.

Often, an open door policy where executives encourage an open communication with team members can make it a place to work. Small but significant cultural changes can help develop a positive work culture by giving feedback, communicating freely and giving support to team members.

CIO 100 organisations including Travis Perkins, 2 Sisters Food Group and Trainline have adopted a cultural change to ensure employees feel valued in the organisation.

Travis Perkins CIO Neil Pearce says: “Part of my role is to help influence the culture within the technology teams to become more customer-aware, and bring the right people into the organisation to improve our capability.”

Give them access to key decision makers

But it is not enough to simply involve your younger colleagues in the regular procedures that keep the light on. Morley thinks it is valuable to offer them access to senior management, and the decisions those people have to make. 

'Within the IT team itself we aim to give everybody an equal voice,' he says. 'As a business we recently set up a junior board, recognizing that we've got to attract the younger generation but also retain them and give them a voice and an opportunity to learn and contribute. This junior board is an opportunity for them to see what happens at that end of the business, what factors influence decisions and impact strategic business plans. It's been great.'

Make it a priority

While a business can engage and retain talent, CIOs will have a greater understanding of what they need from younger talent.

CIOs and executives should engage with younger talent through offering feedback and giving advice to help develop their career. 

This can make it an easier process for retaining talent while also making team members feel valued within their organisation.

Always be changing, but evolve to take people with you

Millennials don't just embrace change, they demand it. So managing the pace of change within a workplace can be critical, in order to engage staff members new and old. News UK CTO Christina Scott feels that to take everyone with you a constant state of evolution is preferable to a sudden dramatic technological change.

'Change management is something that will inadvertently happen, and for a smooth transition, what employees and organisations need is a lot of patience,' Scott told CIOUK earlier this year.

Lead by example

CIOs should offer mentoring and coaching opportunities to its younger teams through sharing their experience and knowledge.

Mentoring gives employees the chance to work alongside CIOs through one-on-one training and observations, exposing them to lots of opportunities to gain hands-on knowledge.

Businesses adopting this approach include CIO 100 organisations Francis Crick Institution, Salford Royal NHS Trust Foundation and the Home Office who have used this initiative to help reduce their IT costs rather than hiring outside coaching.

Mentoring and coaching programmes offer young IT talent to demonstrate their strengths and enthusiasm by working to their full potential which can help build a relationship between the employees and its CIO.

Communicate the company values

While engaging and retaining younger talent can be a challenge for CIOs today. Leaders need assistance from executives to promote the company values of what it needs from its employers but also what is needed from them as a business.

During the hiring process, recruiters should ask candidates about their understanding of the business. This can help CIOs get a better understanding of the candidate and their potential.

Provide an appropriate work environment

Then there are the basics. Get the kit right, or risk your younger colleagues losing faith. It may seem trivial, but a post-BYOD world in which everyone carries a computer around in their pocket, you need to provide the kind of technology that your colleagues will expect.

Value employees and give feedback

Organisations are developing new ways to value employees through giving regular feedback and one-to-one appraisals.

Often, achievements and recognition are overlooked by organisations. CIOs should take the time to schedule meetings and offer employees the chance to communicate and share their most recent accomplishments of how they can perform better in their roles.

Say 'yes' to good ideas, and 'maybe' to bad ideas

And above else, give space for ideas and creativity. It's easy for those of us of an older generation to be frustrated by younger colleagues who seem over keen to ideate without getting the basics right. You can never have too much innovation and the trick is to train your millennials to make the most of their ideas.