IT can communicate with millennials—just relate, don’t alienate

April 3, 20174 Minute Read

Once upon a time, all company computer problems were taken care of by the IT department. To ensure continuity, as well as security, certain IT processes and procedures were the norm. Things usually went down like this: A user would call or send an email to the help desk for support, then sit tight and wait as IT diagnosed and remedied the problem. Back then, the concept of a global shadow IT spend was far from anyone’s mind.

The new generation thinks about IT differently, and millennial communication preferences show a violent distaste for phone calls. It’s expected that by 2020, millennials will comprise more than half the global workforce. Younger workers are taking hold inside companies, which means communication and working styles need to change with the times without alienating those in other generations and maintaining security.

What users want

Some employees want to take charge of their own technology, especially millennials, who’ve never known a time without tech. This can cause tension with IT when security issues come into play. Because most millennials learned to navigate technology solo, they have a better understanding of the inner workings than many older users. This makes millennials prime candidates for taking technology into their own hands: It’s called shadow IT—and it sucks—to the tune of $100 billion in total global shadow IT spend for small and midsize businesses. But it’s not all bad news: When things go wrong, employees—even millennials—still need IT support. When they finally come to you for help, be glad they did. The alternative, such as a user installing free security software or accidentally wiping a hard drive, could be worse. Much, much worse.

Security implications are an obvious problem in this post-Snowden world, where even an unattractive rubber watch that counts steps can give IT some hell. The IT department must work to understand what gaps employees are seeking to fill with shadow IT, then fill them and ensure data security.

Call me—never

The entry point to accessing IT can seem downright ancient to a millennial. Today’s worker focuses on time efficiency, so the thought of a long, uncomfortable phone call or an important email going unanswered for hours is excruciating to some. To millennials, phone calls can be presumptuous, ineffective, distracting, and superfluous, according to Inc.’s Ryan Jenkins.

The ideal way to communicate? It’s via text or chatting. Text-based communication is now seen as a more expedient way of communicating. With instant messaging, workers can keep their train of thought, answer messages, and resume their work. Chat also has the added capability for screenshots and other contextual items. In many cases, this could actually give IT a better idea of what’s going on, rather than long-winded phone calls or playing phone and email tag, viewed by many as perennial time wasters. It’s almost as bad as the coworker who still prints out emails.

The IT help desk, of course, isn’t getting rid of the support phone line and email inbox. Executives require those critical forms of support. But IT can put new tools into place for a more digitally adept generation. Having texting tools or chats that link users to IT goes a long way. It makes IT seem friendly, accessible, and ready to help.

Everyone’s involved

Compared to other generations, millennials are more educated, entrepreneurial, and multiskilled. However, issues with millennial communication and IT are a lingering quagmire. IT blaming the user—in the case of millennials not wanting to use traditional communication channels or being suspiciously “away from their desk” every time you call them—is not the answer. Turning these challenges into opportunities is key to reducing the total global shadow IT spend.

Consider these employees part of the IT team. Getting users involved in IT provides a better sense of what it takes to do the job. It also helps those charged with an organization’s IT policies to relate, not alienate, when it comes to communications. Millennials are capable of solving some of their own technology problems, but they still need a guiding hand when it comes to security. Mind-blowing projects associated with virtual reality, the Internet of Things, and chatbots will certainly stir their interest and get them invested in IT security. What millennial wouldn’t want to get involved in IT if it meant experiencing really cool tech?

The tools may be changing, but the role of IT won’t. Yes, for nontechnical people, dealing with IT can seem like interfacing with the Kraken: slow, cumbersome, and unpredictable. But there’s a middle ground to reach for—keeping everyone happy and productive.

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