Taurus Oil Company recently hired a young man named Jim. Jim was 26 years old, which put him smack dab in the middle of Generation Y, better known as the Millennial Generation. Like a lot of Millennials, Jim thought that he really knew his way around modern technology–after all, he had his own computer before he even learned to ride a bike! After a few months on the job Jim spoke with his supervisor, Allan, and told him that he had an idea that would save the company time and money. He promised that he could single-handedly set up a network that would allow all of Taurus Oil’s offices to communicate with each other directly, without the help of any outside consultants. Allan figured that a young and tech-savvy person like Jim could handle a project like this in his sleep, so he gave him the go-ahead.
It looked like everything was going well… at first. Jim had picked up a few cheap routers and was able to connect three of the offices without issue. But as more and more offices were added to the network, communication speeds began to take a nosedive. When Allan finally decided to call in a team of IT experts, he learned that Jim’s network had a gaping hole in it that posed a major security risk at the headquarters’ office. The team of consultants had to replace and upgrade the networking equipment so that it could handle all of Taurus’s inter-office communications. They also made sure that the new network had the robust security features that Jim’s jury-rigged network lacked.
Now, Jim was no dummy, and he was able to get the network up and running after a bit of on the job learning, but he simply did not understand the technology well enough to make it work in a business setting.
Having a Driver’s License Doesn’t Make You a Mechanic
Millennials have developed a reputation for being tech-savvy, but is it deserved? Let’s use a metaphor to better address this question.
As a kid, you probably watched in amazement as your parents drove you around in the car. They knew all the traffic laws, could parallel park with ease, and looked almost bored while flying down the highway. You might have watched your dad change a flat tire and assumed that he was an automobile expert. But as you got older, you realized that there was a lot going on under the hood that required the skilled hand of a professional to fix. In other words, you learned that simply having a driver’s license doesn’t make someone a mechanic.
In our experience, we’ve found that a lot of Millennials are not, in fact, tech-savvy, but rather “tech-comfortable”. They intuitively understand how to use technology, but very few have a deep understanding of the processes going on just beneath the surface. Many business owners fail to make this critical distinction, which can have disastrous results.
In the last few years, we’ve been seeing more and more cases of businesses landing in hot water when they trust their Millennial employees to design and implement complex solutions to technical problems. While they can talk intelligently about technology and may even be able to set up some small scale solutions, but most simply do not understand the far reaching implications that these solutions have on business.
Now, it is important to remember that there are Millennials out there who really know their stuff and can handle almost any tech problem you throw their way, but to assume that the entire generation is tech-savvy does them and the people that employ them a major disservice. Keep in mind that it is not always the Millennial employee’s overconfidence that causes problems. We’ve seen too many cases of young people being pressured into taking on projects that they are not qualified to perform, but because they are afraid of letting down their bosses they’ll give it a shot anyway, usually resulting in some pretty shoddy work.
Keep in mind that there is still a lot to be gained by having Millennials on your workforce. The fact that they are so tech-comfortable makes them fearless when it comes to experimenting with new technologies, and their thirst for innovation means they’ll be less likely to settle for any outdated or inefficient business solutions. However, if you think that just having a Millenial on staff is going to replace the need for an experienced IT professional, you are setting yourself up for disaster.