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 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.
CIO UK has spoken to several leading CIOs about the positive impact young people have on their teams. Here are some of their key learnings in terms of how to embrace millennials in IT and digital
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: Give everyone a voice
Greg Morley is the CIO of United Living, a large construction company with five regional offices throughout the UK. His team comprises people of a range of ages, and consists of two previously separate teams brought together by the merger of two companies. Morley 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.
'Young people have a very different voice. It speaks loudly,' he says. 'An example is one of the young people we're working with on the mobile procurement piece. When he started this process he thought it would be as simple as buying 600 Android phones or iPhones from a mobile phone shop. The junior board engagement helped him understand the implications: the data element of the contract, voice, the reporting, contracts, security. What type of devices we need to consider for different reasons.
'Once he was aware of the implications he was able to meet with device suppliers to understand potential business benefits between volume discounts and the ability to work directly with the OEM. He was able to find a balance between end-user usability and business value. It's a really valuable process for that person and for the business.
'I'd call it youthful vigour. It energizes what could have been a very tedious process and offers that fresh pair of eyes and a new enthusiasm It makes it a very interesting project.'
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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.
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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.' (Read next: United Living CIO Greg Morley on key industry trends for CIOs.)
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: Empower them to deliver real change
You can't fake this stuff, however. Mike Faiers is the eBusiness Director of BSH Home Appliances Limited, and he firmly believes that the IT and digital functions are most effective when they are given the opportunity to be creative. He finds that you need to give young people a genuine opportunity to impact, rather than just the space to come up with ideas
'Making digital tangible and meaningful to the business [is important],' he says. 'It's easy to sit in an air-conditioned office and look at apps. But how do you make that meaningful to the wider business so colleagues get the value of it?'
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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 withint 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 says.
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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.
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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 Greg Morley agues that in 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.
'We've got to be mindful of the fact that the people we're recruiting have come from college or university where they've known nothing but tablets. To come into an organisation where they're going to be expected to use an old PC under their desk, or a legacy application, that's not the best way to retain them. We'd like our teams to be properly enabled to do their job and do it well.'
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: Do things, don't just fix things
Young people want to feel pride in their department, says Mike Faiers. He believes that the millennial IT professional wants to be working to activtly improve things, and not just fixing problems or providing support.
'The biggest change was a change in mindset. In a traditional IT mindset we're the doers. We get something and we implement it. A lot of the change was to say doing it is the easy bit.
'We want to be the consultants and the experts that are involved in the ideation right at the beginning to involve us then because we can add value, rather than waiting until the eleventh hour and asking us to do something and we say 'No' due to policies, guidelines or not following the correct process. Then you're a firefighter. You are fixing problems rather than having a strategic vision from the start.' (Read next: How one UK CIO changed IT from a support service to a business enabler.)
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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 with almost 15% of employees feeling unvalued in their roles, according to research from Harvey Nash.
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. This can help CIOs understand the employees’ needs better while also working towards a shared business goal.
How CIOs can retain and engage young people: 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. But, says Mike Faiers, you can never have too much innovation and the trick is to train your millennials to make the most of their ideas.
'I don't think innovation is something you need to be trained in, I think it's something you need to be passionate about," says Faiers. "The bit that needs training is how to translate tech into something that's business-orientated. If you like tech and you're interested in, for example the new iPhone, and what could be possible with the HTC Vive, then you're halfway there. All you then need to do is merge that passion and enthusiasm to translate that into something that's business beneficial. It's not rocket science.
'I would never stop creativity. I'd rather somebody came to me with 10 horrendous ideas and then one absolute gem, rather than them waiting for me to give them all the ideas. You should also do some things just because you can and to inspire other people about what's possible. I don't think that's a bad thing.'