Don’t Be Eaten by an Osprey: Evolving with the Oregon Trail/Millennial Generation and Beyond
As millennials enter the job market and their expectations start to shape how companies operate, how do you accommodate for the changing requirements of this younger workforce? Insight’s Mike Gaumond and Curt Cornum kick off the season by discussing millennials characteristics and how they are disrupting the way IT operates.
Note: Complete audio transcript found after author info.
Episode 1 – Don't Be Eaten by an Osprey: Evolving with the Oregon Trail/Millennial Generation and Beyond
Published September 14, 2016
Announcer: You're listening Technomics. Connecting you to insights on digital transformation and the marketplace, with your hosts: Robyn Itule and Jeremy Nelson. The hosts' opinions are their own. Enjoy the show!
Robyn Itule: Jeremy did you play Oregon Trail when you were younger?
Jeremy Nelson: Oh a big fan, not even when I was younger. I think I have it on my smart phone.
Robyn Itule: Its still a thing for you?
Jeremy Nelson: Oh yeah, the high definition version.
Robyn Itule: Still routinely being captured by Osprey?
Jeremy Nelson: I don't know about routinely, but its definitely something that still occurs.
Robyn Itule: You've advanced to the level where your stealth avoidance to the osprey is bringing you to new levels of Columbia River discovery?
Jeremy Nelson: Exactly, and I can get through a river like nobody's business.
Robyn Itule: You go ahead and float that Conestoga Wagon. So today we're talking about generational transitions in the workplace. And I like to lovingly call myself a part of the Oregon Trail generation. I am solidly within the millennial time frame, but I got to be on this planet early enough that I relished the experience of navigating a computer with things like Oregon Trail and Hyper Card. I don't know if anybody out there is going to remember Commander Keen, but that was a real thing. I spent a lot of time with it. Dialed up using Prodigy.
Jeremy Nelson: Yes, now we're talking.
Robyn Itule: I remember when that Apple 2 GS came into our house, like the whole nine yards. I hope I'm providing a bit of nostalgia for any of our other millennial listeners who have birthdays ending in the 80s. But that's the talk though. The way that we grew up when technology was coming into our homes and becoming a routine presence in our lives has radically changed the way that this generation has come into the work place. So I guess the first question is, what millennial tendencies do you think you have?
Jeremy Nelson: So obviously, in the industry that I work in, being drawn to technology, being drawn to connected services and devices, that's just part of who I am. So I definitely relate with them there. Working remotely, just being anywhere on the planet, firing up a laptop in an airport, being able to sit there for 3 hours and be just as productive as I would be in a physical office. I think in those areas I'm definitely very millennial-centric. But its funny, as we start talking about this I still a lot of my tendencies in that old world, especially as it comes to my day-to-day work habits and the way that I interact with people. Where I still have some deep roots in the way things have always been done.
Robyn Itule: Part of you will always be analog?
Jeremy Nelson: I will be, yep.
Robyn Itule: Well, here to talk about this generational transition and share with us what other millennial tendencies they might have are senior vice president of services, Mike Gaumond. And also our vice president and chief solution architect, Curt Cornum. Both with a little bit of tenure under their belts as far as Technomics is concerned. Welcome back.
Mike Gaumond:And a little bit of tenure in other ways I think sadly. We are probably both closer to the generation that originally traversed the Oregon Trail than the generation that played the game.
Curt Cornum: I thought I was going to have to play the age card there.
Robyn Itule: So this is something that is really weighing pretty heavy on the shoulders of the IT groups and the client organizations that we work with is, how do we accommodate the changing requirements that younger workers are bringing into the workplace? So is there a value or an ideal or an expectation that you find people are constantly bringing into the conversation around work force enablement when it comes to enabling millennials and others?
Mike Gaumond: Yeah I'd say a couple things that strike me. One is this notion of FOMO, fear of missing out. So there's a desire to be in constant connection with their peers, their colleagues, and their friends. And its unlike prior generations in terms of the frequency with which they communicate, touch base, check status, again with their friends and their peers. So I think that's something that's very, very different about this generation from prior generations.
Curt Cornum: Right, I think on the expectation side, it is an expectation to always be connected and to always be getting the information that you need when you need it.
Jeremy Nelson: So that's interesting if we think about that from the perspective of leaders in a technology space. Its obviously very attractive to millennials. Do you think that has an impact on the way that they like to be managed. Is that same FOMO type type of interaction expected in that direction as well.
Mike Gaumond: I think it is and I think if you don't stay in contact and in touch with them they feel like you're disconnecting from them and they don't read that as a positive. Back in my generation it was always the no news is good news. That's no longer the case; no news have been defriended.
Robyn Itule: You're not on fleek.
Robyn Itule: It was going to work its way in here one way or another.
Curt Cornum: I think we also see in the workplace that there's a trend towards more creative titles. I was at a retailer recently, and the gal that was helping me pick out a new pair of jeans, her title was stylist. And I thought that was interesting because I guess she's trying to match styles of the jeans with other products that they have there in the store. But I just thought it was interesting. So I think title-ing, its a bit more creative, I think it may be more important these days because I think its a reflection of the fact that everybody is socially aware and socially connected and so there's just more information around the types of jobs that people have. They may not have had access to that type of information in the past.
Jeremy Nelson: That reminds me of back in the 90s, so being a Gen Xer as opposed to a millennial. That was a big thing during the .com days right? Number one Unix Ninja or whatever was on business cards. And again, that was more of a silly, light hearted take on it but obviously, you mentioned here Curt is a reflection of a heightened degree of importance to the organization.
Curt Cornum: Right and I think a reflection of the personality more than just that structured, corporate title.
Mike Gaumond: Senior Unix Engineers.
Curt Cornum: Exactly, and I think in the past too, I think folks, when they went to work, it was kind of a black hole. You didn't really know about where folks were going to work, what they did. You didn't really have access to the company profiles like you do today and In think that makes a big difference. And I think the millennials want to feel good about where they work. And there's information about where they work that people can get online like Glass Door for example. And so I think those are things that are important to millennials. It isn't just their personal title, but they want to feel good about how people feel about where the work and things like that.
Mike Gaumond: And just to build on that about people feeling good about where they work. I think there's another big difference with millennials is that they really want to be part of something bigger. They really want the company that they work for to have a broader purpose than just, "We make these widgets and we sell them to these customers." They're looking to be part of something that gives back to the community or serves a higher purpose than just purely being a commercial entity.
Robyn Itule: Yeah I would say that that's entirely true. And if you look at some of the initiates that we've undertaken in our own organization that have really tried to address things that each of you have identified. So take a system like success factors or JAM which is the collaboration solution. You really have an ability to craft your own profile. So while you might be a Senior Unix Engineer, in your profile you might say that your Unix skills are ninja-like. And people would take some meaning in that you are silent but deadly with your coding. I'm sorry, now I'm just taking that metaphor way too far. Meanwhile, its really important from a brand perspective, I love how often this comes up in our IT conversations. We really have to look at those programs and really have a definition around it. For us its about bringing technology to help advance the lives of children. And being able to say that with our ability to reach them, which is actually the title of the program, we're going to make a meaningful effort at that and make sure that everybody knows that that's what our philanthropic energies are pointed at.
Mike Gaumond: And more importantly, I think it resonates with this generation than it had with prior.
Jeremy Nelson: And I think that kinds comes back full circle to the sharing, the connectedness and wanting to provide and take pride in what you share with your peers. And obviously, a big portion of our day is dedicated to what we do for a living and so being able to kind of share, not only the success pieces but how that's getting back and the philanthropic nature of it like you pointed out Robyn is obviously pretty important to that generation. Stay with us for more Technomics, we'll be right back.
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Robyn Itule: So sharing is a really important function. I mean we have an entire sharing economy out there now Ken Lamneck speaks pretty prolifically to how that's really disrupted so many approaches to doing business. And that has also disrupted the way that IT operates and thinks because people are sharing files, people are sharing devices, people are sharing a lot of information through a lot of different portals. So what have been some of the biggest challenges that a new generational approach has brought to the table when IT is talking?
Mike Gaumond: You talked about sharing files and my generation and to a certain extent, Jeremy's, I'm a boomer I'm actually beyond GenX. Sharing files meant I'll send you an email with a file enclosed in it. Millennials don't really rely on email nearly to the extent that the prior generations do and they absolutely don't rely on enclosures. My daughter is a millennial and just got a job. She's in the real world now so I encouraged her to make.
Robyn Itule: Congratulations.
Mike Gaumond: Off the pay roll. I encouraged her to make a budget so that she would stay off the payroll and she sent that to me, but of course she sent it in a Google App that I could view and edit and share but not which I would have likely done. Which is a Microsoft Excel file which I would have enclosed and sent to her. So they expect to collaborate in very, very different ways. And I heard it described, actually Marion Garcia our head of recruiting, described it really well. She said, "In prior generations, sharing was considered a divider." In other words, I'm taking my asset and I'm dividing it up because I'm sharing it with other people. And with millennials, its considered a multiplier. The more people I can get to contribute to this document, this concept, this idea, this theme, the better its going to be. So its actually a whole different outlook on the way to think about collaboration.
Robyn Itule: It would be a good point to mention that the millennial generation could also be dubbed the Captain Planet generation. And this is where I can make the reference to all our powers combined.
Jeremy Nelson: Oh man. I remember that cartoon.
Robyn Itule: That was way too easy. Thank you for teeing me up for that.
Mike Gaumond: Another cartoon after my time.
Curt Cornum: You know Mike talked a lot about the sharing and the files, but I think it really started with the device piece. Around the time the iPhone came out
Robyn Itule: Which was only seven years ago.
Curt Cornum: Yeah it was 2007 that it came out.
Robyn Itule: Wait a minute, ten years ago, wow. I'm a mom okay, I've been up since real early.
Curt Cornum: There was a theory that when the iPhone came out that suddenly corporate Blackberry's started having all kinds of ill fate. They were falling into pools and toilets and everything else. And folks were doing that as an excuse to bring in their own device. I think that might have been a little bit overstated but if you do track when BYOD, bring your own device started, it was right around that time. And I think there was a big push for folks at that point to say, I want to use the device of my choice at work and it was probably problematic for IT to actually use iPhones at that point for a lot of reasons. Some was cost reasons, some were security, and there's some great reasons to do that. But I think that started that trend towards BYOD. And it’s still a journey that we're on. But I think as you know, internally and a lot of our clients today are making that transition to a true BYOD environment, especially for the phones. Not necessarily for the other devices, but I think it’s just a matter of when not if that happens as well for the other devices.
Robyn Itule: Well it’s also what's on those devices. There's some pretty strict, I won't say strict. It’s not always strict. But there's a lot of thinking around enterprise applications, but Mike, you just alluded to your daughter using a Google App. There's probably a lot of people in our own organization who for purposes of functionality resort to some of those cloud based applications in order to just get their work done. To navigate past, around, over, under, pick your direction, some of the things that maybe things that feel cumbersome. That are in the way. And I think the natural question there becomes a security one which is, "What kind of implications does that have and how do you provide the functionality but maintain this security?"
Mike Gaumond: It actually goes to both complexity and security so as you think about BYOD, as you think about using cloud-based applications, as you think about a significantly heavier reliance on social media. All these factors drive both complexity of the environment which makes it more difficult to manage, for an IT organization, and it also creates some significant security challenges. So how do you bifurcate the personal data and the corporate data on a device. How do you secure the corporate data in a way that doesn't make the whole reason they brought their own device, which is because they love the experience on it, how do you make it secure without destroying the experience? But how do you prevent it from being hacked or if the person leaves the organization, how do you have the ability to easily and with some confidence, remove secure corporate data from it? So it creates some real challenges from a management perspective.
Curt Cornum: I may be a bit of a contrarian on the device piece because I believe the mobile devices, I don't think the device within itself is less secure. I think in some ways, it actually is more secure because the mobile device tends to talk out to the carrier network, it’s not behind the firewall, behind the corporate network. So in some ways, it’s more secure from that regard. Now, the data is what's really at risk. It’s not really about the device, it’s about the data and where its being stored. We see that a lot. If you walked around here today, you would find corporate data on peoples' personal devices and you'll find personal data on their corporate devices. There's just this intermingling of data across the devices today. But I think in some ways the move to web based technology and mobile apps is making things more secure because of their standards and place for encryption and things like that that are changing what the environment used to be. Before, it was a bit of the wild west and I think it was really hard to control where the data's going. But if you look at most of the breaches today, they're happening through social engineering. They're happening because of people clicking on emails that they get on their corporate laptop that's sitting behind the firewall. It’s not due to them sharing something through Google Apps from their iPhone. That's not really where threats, if you look at the stats, that's not where the breeches are coming from. It’s coming from the old school technology that people kind of assume is more secure. And it’s not because there's a person on the other side of the keyboard.
Robyn Itule: I'm really glad you brought that up because that's a thing that really, genuinely unnerves me, especially being someone who pays close attention to social media is the social engineering piece is genuinely frightening. You think about, "Okay, I just got an IM from Jeremy, but did I really just get an IM from Jeremy?" It’s like a total question everything moment and I think we had a discussion similar to this around building trust in your IT systems the way you'd build trust in your brand. So that people know this is an official account, things are really buttoned up here, and I can know and trust that this is the person or the organization that I'm supposed to be engaging with. Let alone, the platforms which we know employees are engaging on all day long on and sometimes very much a part of the sanctioned activity for the day. We want social advocates, we want people to be sharing the story, but what's getting shared back? What are those links?
Mike Gaumond: And I think that is where it’s a little bit frightening. Most of our teammates are smart enough not to click on the link that says your rich uncle who was a prince in Lithuania just left you a billion dollars. Click here or respond to the email. Most of them know that's a spoof.
Robyn Itule: I didn't know I was Lithuanian.
Jeremy Nelson: Hold on, I've been waiting for a check. Are you saying that's not coming?
Mike Gaumond: I said most of them are smart enough.
Jeremy Nelson: Oh okay, I thought you were going to say most of them are real, I thought mine was.
Mike Gaumond: But like you said, the one that comes from someone you know and trust and says here's the document that you asked about, you don't really think twice. You're not suspect and that's the one where they've got something vicious or malicious planted inside it.
Robyn Itule: I have this vision of you just running down a long hall with your arms outstretched just trying to hit the off switch on everything that you touch.
Jeremy Nelson: It wasn't far off. It was actually pretty darn close.
Robyn Itule: And for me that's what's a little bit unnerving about some of the things that are kind of out there that people are beginning to talk about like block chain technology. That's a whole theory that I won't even pretend to, I'm not even a novice. I know the word and I know that after hearing the premise of it, I feel like there needs to be a lot more trust established there.
Mike Gaumond: Yeah, block chain is a pretty new technology. A lot of companies are exploring it for a lot of different applications and the theory behind it is that, rather than keeping one record and trying to ensure that its secure and it’s not hacked, you kind of do the reverse. You keep many, millions, possibly more versions of the record, all that have to be synchronized so if one of them does get hacked, it stands out as the one that is no longer relevant or is no longer accurate and is suspect. And it gets quarantined off and taken out of the network if you will. So it’s a whole new paradigm of security, which is instead of trying to closely guard the single version of the truth, you actually replicate the version of the truth as many times and as many places as you can and then keep them synchronized. And when one shows up that's different, you pull it out of the system.
Robyn Itule: Very interesting. We're going to be hearing more about that, I have no doubt about it in my mind. We're going to take a quick break, we'll come right back.
Robyn Itule: Jeremy do you ever feel like you have a hard time figuring out what the most important technology news is on a weekly basis?
Jeremy Nelson: Always, I never seem to know where to go.
Robyn Itule:There's so much of it.
Jeremy Nelson: So much.
Robyn Itule:Fortunately for people like you, there is The Script. Which is one of our newsletters that is about the news, best practices, and current trends in technology. We have scoured the web and we've looked for only the most important things. So if, like Jeremy, you need a concise, valuable, way to get the most out of the technology headlines, visit www.insight.com to subscribe to The Script. They're IT headlines worth repeating.
Robyn Itule: But these kind of problems can cause what seem to be very innocent issues to begin with. And those innocent issues are things that millennials, a majority of them, a sizeable amount of them would try and solve for themselves initially. And then when they finally realize they can't figure it out on their own, 60% of them want a call back from tech support in about ten minutes.
Curt Cornum: Ten seconds?
Robyn Itule: Minutes, I'm giving it minutes.
Mike Gaumond: Actually, those may seem at odds, but in my mind that's good news. Let's go the typical you call the help desk level one support. And what you're saying is that the millennials really want to fix the problem themselves if they can. So we're seeing a big explosion in that call to self-service. Instead of going to level one, you do level zero, self-service. And we're working with clients right now to facilitate self-service by doing things like building knowledge management systems that allow you to have a place to go to solve the problem yourself without having to call the helpdesk. Or an interesting one, sort of an analogy to one, if you think of the Best Buy vending machines you see in the airport, you can buy an earphone or a mousepad. Companies are implementing those for their high volume items. Like, "I lost the pen for my Microsoft Surface, or my mouse disappeared." Rather than create a ticket for that, have a vending machine in the hallway of the company, the employee swipes their badge in the machine and they get the pen for their new surface. It becomes self-service. So what that does is yes, it meets the needs of the millennials, but it also takes a significant workload off of that level one help desk which gives you the chance to respond to those opportunities in ten minutes because now they're really working on the right opportunities instead of ordering stylus pens and mouse pads.
Robyn Itule: Jeremy looked like he resembled that remark when you brought up the point about the stylus.
Jeremy Nelson: I did, I did.
Mike Gaumond: He's always been wandering the hallways looking for the vending machine right?
Jeremy Nelson: I've always wondered like the first time I saw one of those Best Buy kiosks pop up in an airport, I thought, "Who on Earth is ever going to go to one of those?" Until I found myself walking through an airport, realizing I left my headset behind at home, and I was desperate. "Hey there's a Best Buy kiosk." And within a matter of moments, I had a headset fresh in my hand and off I go.
Curt Cornum: Remember in the last conversation we had, was around sometimes folks want self-service and sometimes they want high touch. And another example of the high touch piece, my wife works for Wells Fargo Bank. And they actually created what they call IT express. So at one of their large campus sites, you can walk in there and they have on display all the different laptops that are available to them as an employee. So they can look at the different laptops, they've created their own version of the Genuis Bar right there if you need PC support and tech support, you can get it. It is a high touch type of environment. And you think about that and then there's the social interaction as well. So if you have folks in the millennial generation, some are working remote or they have flex hours those types of things, it’s a way for them to stay connected because they can come into that location, they can get their accessories, they can get upgraded software and do things like that. So pretty innovative idea that Wells Fargo put together around that.
Robyn Itule: Keeping workforce enablement well in mind and talking about the technology and retaining and attracting new employees and existing employees becomes really, really central to this conversation. And that was probably the point that we need to hit on as we start to wrap things up here. Because at the end of the day, the decisions that the companies are making are about finding the best talent, finding the benefits that keep them attracted, and keep them doing their most productive and engaged work. So with that in mind, what are some of the strategies you're seeing that are really successful when it comes to talent and technology?
Mike Gaumond: Well I think some of its giving the kind of choice that Curt alluded to for example, what Wells Fargo is doing and having a broader array of options of current technology. You've got a generation that's grown up with iPhones and iPads and video games and they're used to highly interactive, highly intuitive, highly visual interfaces. And if you bring them an older piece of technology that has an older generation interface on it, they're not going to react well to it. So you may not attract them or if you do, you may not retain them. So you've got to adopt some of those newer technologies. I think you have to be less strict than historically about this work versus personal use of the devices and allow for the fact that, they're going to use the devices for work purposes in the evenings on the weekends, but they're also going to use the device for personal purposes during the day as long as it’s appropriate and balanced with getting their job done, that's okay. So I think there are things both from the kind of technology and the kind of policies that you kind of put in place that you really have to think differently about than in the past where you could lock things down.
Curt Cornum: Yeah I agree. The technology I think is a no brainer. We heard of a client, they were giving their interns hand-me-downs from their other employees. So when an intern came in they would hand them not just a laptop, but an older model of the laptop, that didn't work out for them very well in terms of retaining those interns into full employment. I think the technology's almost gotten to the point where I think it’s almost a given in terms of the level of technology, when you look at touch screens and the types of video and audio and those types of things. But Mike touched on it, it really becomes a policy education piece. So policy we've talked about when we went out on choose your own device, when CYOD was around, having a light touch versus a heavy hand when it comes to device choice and application choice and really to try and solve that through policy and probably even more importantly, through the education piece. Because what we talked about earlier, with folks clicking on these different links, that's an educational piece, you will never really solve that with technology. Because I may keep getting a pesky email and finally I say, I'm just going to say unsubscribe, and it’s the unsubscribe button that is the one that has the ransomware behind it.
Robyn Itule: Well and that's the eternal thing right? That's where picnic comes from, problem in chair, not in computer right? It is about education and I think that when it comes to technology, millennials are pre-programmed to adapt with it. Alright so let's tie this one up with a nice little bow here. So we know that millennials are pretty much pre-programmed to adapt to technology. So what is the one thing that listeners can take away from adapting their own IT strategies for any future generation? Looking particularly at 2017, that was a really long ranged question. Let's reel that in a little.
Curt Cornum: Well Mike I'll start if you want. Mike mentioned the FOMO piece, and that's a term I believe is coming actually for generation Z which is the Generation Zin will be hitting the workforce in the next couple years right? So they're right at the age where they'll be graduating college and coming into the workforce around 2017. And there's predictions that they'll be 10% of the workforce by 2020. So now you're going to have five different generations all in the workforce at the same time in three or four years from now. I don't think you can paint this with a broad brush around one generation, I think you need to look at what that technology footprint needs to be for your company to be able to engage their customers in new and exciting ways. And whatever that technology footprint needs to be, you're going to need to get the training across that entire user base.
Robyn Itule: How long is your road map, for technology? How far are you looking out?
Curt Cornum: Ten years.
Mike Gaumond:I'm going to make it more complicated not more simple, I apologize. But you know another interesting statistic, they've done surveys on Generation Z recently and over 50% of them do not ever expect to work for a company. They expect to work on their own. Now some of that, you may argue is because they're really young and naive and they don't have to pay for rent and food yet, but its dramatically different. And if you assume that that's going to carry forward, it’s going to be a much larger base of this free-lance gig based economy in the future. Which I think is just going to increase the demand for the interactions of the technologies because by 2020, maybe half of your workforce is not going to be your employee base, they're going to be independents who work for you on a project base. So that goes from kind of the millennial challenges on your workforce to on steroids in some ways.
Curt Cornum: Sounds like Mike just approved me working from home.
Mike Gaumond:I didn't quite read it that way.
Robyn Itule: Well I so appreciate your thoughts, we have a lot to look forward to and this conversation is one that is obviously going to continue to evolve and we'll have to keep coming back to it. Find out how many of us are still able to sit around a table together or maybe we'll all be dialing in. Mike, Curt thank you so much for joining us again on Technomics.
Mike Gaumond:Thanks guys, always a pleasure.
Curt Cornum: Thanks Robyn and Jeremy.
Jeremy Nelson: Thanks for listening to Technomics. If you want to find more episodes you can download the podcasts from iTunes, Google, or your favorite podcast provider. And for more stories on intelligent technology, visit www.insight.com.