As the IT industry matures, so does its workforce and diversity. In its infancy solely the bastion of men, it's now "home" to both sexes, all races and, increasingly, different generations.
Today there may be as many as 2.5 generations represented on your staff. First, there are the IT veterans, the baby boomers who were there when one computer took up an entire room. Next comes Generation X, the folks who were weaned on Ataris and Commodore 64s. Right behind them is Generation Y, people who never knew life without cable TV and may or may not be able to identify a record album.
Workplace trends expert Lisa Aldisert says managers may have a hard time managing two of these generations as they only identify well with one, and offers advice on how you can improve your understanding in this area.
"The first thing to think about is that different generations value different things," she says. "When you think of what different generations value, you have different mindsets."
For the baby boomers, their minds are on retirement and how they now have a much smaller nest egg than they did three years ago, she says. The boomers are concerned with job and financial security and retirement planning, and may be harboring feelings of "Is that all there is?" as they approach the end of their careers. Many are even considering a midlife career change.
The Generation Xers, now in their 30s, face different security issues, Aldisert says. They're concerned about saving money, paying their mortgages, having children and maintaining a good work/life balance, she says. "Generation X was probably defined by the fact it was the first generation of young people who really had a lot of divorced families," Aldisert says. " In that respect they want to reverse that in their own situations and they want to have more stability in their family ties." She also notes that the desire for work/life balance is not strictly a female concern with this generation, men and women both share it.
The youngest folks, in their 20s, are looking for experience, but not just experience for experience's sake. Generation Y employees want a meaningful job, not just grunt work, Aldisert says; they want to make a difference. "If they're not valued or feel they're not contributing, they'll jump ship. People aren't going to hang on to jobs just because they're jobs," she says.
"Ys will value teamwork more than anything. They think 'Dilbert' is a joke, they can't understand it [because] they've never had those experiences."