Four Generations’ Embrace of Technology

Technology is pervasive in the workplace. That isn’t a news flash; it’s just reality. When we have an IT or Internet malfunction, my employees are probably less than 20% as effective without their computers. They will catch up on some filing, make a few copies, and then talk about whether they should just go home.

With four generations in the workplace today, how you deploy technology to employees, and how it is utilized, becomes a substantial part of planning for productivity. Each generation has a different approach, and understanding it is critical if you want them to work together as a team.

office geneerationsBefore I go further, any generational discussion is by nature broad. I know advanced-aged seniors who live on Facebook, and GenXers who can barely find an on-off switch. They are just not typical.

The Silent Generation (1925-1942) were generally too young to fight in WWII. They are also called the Traditionalists. Although in their 70’s now, many are still active in the workplace. They are technology avoiders. It isn’t intuitive to them, and they are often afraid of breaking something. In the workplace, they may argue that the old ways are the best ways. Pens and paper are their friends. Many got through that entire VCR “fad” without learning how to record, and they hope other technologies are just as transient.

The Baby Boomers (1945-1964) are technology acceptors. Many are frustrated that they barely learn how to deal with the latest release of a gadget before they have to start learning another. They can handle computers and smart phones, but typically absorb just enough to make them functional. They will cautiously take on a new technology. but only after they are sure it’s going to stay around for a while.

Generation X (1965-1980) are technology adopters. They are likely to take pride in owning new gadgets; having the latest gizmo is a status symbol. Technology has always played a central role in their offices and communications. It is a tool, and one they can’t function very well without.

Millennials (1981-2000) are technology anticipators. It  is so entwined in their daily life that they are surprised when it can’t do something. If their device lacks a capability, they hit the Internet to search for the program, app or widget that will make it possible.

Four people, one from each generation, agree to meet at a festival. The Silent Generationer insists on a setting time and place for the rendezvous. The Boomer, running a bit late, calls one of the others on her cellphone, and asks that everyone be informed about her delay. The GenXer texts the entire group every few minutes with updates on his estimated time of arrival.

The Millennial doesn’t show up at the meeting place. When he catches up with the group an hour later, he is puzzled at their irritation. After all, he tweeted his change of plans, posted a picture of what he was doing instead on Instagram, and was easily locatable via GPS. What was the problem?

Implementing a tech upgrade used to be a matter of handing out the directions. Today, managing the users has become more of a challenge than the installation. Accept that their learning curves will differ, and that for some, nothing will ever be new enough.

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