So-called "Gen Y" workers are entering the workforce in droves. As young men and women graduate college and enter the workplace, they bring with them a unique base of life experience. Most of them have grown up with laptops and mobile devices and are fully accustomed to being connected to information--and one another--at all times. And now that Gen Y is hitting the workforce, its members are standing up for what they view as their right to choose what device they use to do their work.
"These are the people to whom personal technology is ubiquitous within their lives, and as they enter the workforce that is going to have a direct impact on how IT people deal with this need and requirement for people to have access to information whenever and wherever they need it," says Kevin Flynn, senior product manager at Fortinet, a company that provides network security appliances.
These young workers are the chief driving force behind the bring-your-own-device (BYOD) revolution that has IT professionals scurrying to accommodate without leaving IT assets unprotected. IT is trying to answer some serious questions right now: Where is the most comfortable midpoint in BYOD policies that will please both the CIO and the young worker? Is it possible to reach that point?
As tricky as it might seem, it's a situation the industry has lived through before, says Flynn. It's no different than the switch from mainframes and dumb terminals to desktop PCs in the 1980s, or the rise of the Internet in the early to mid-1990s. IT staff members dealt with it then on the network infrastructure and security levels to improve the way people did their work. They need to be as accommodating and creative now.
"Denying it or stalling it is not good business," warns Flynn.
Not only is there a risk of keeping current workers hamstrung without the mobile devices they've come to depend upon, but organizations will also find they risk losing out on recruiting and retaining talent.
"To hire and retain younger talent that brings innovation into the enterprise, organizations need to be able to accommodate the technology expectations of that workforce in order to maintain a competitive advantage," says Melissa Siems, senior director of solutions marketing for mobile security at McAfee.
It isn't a matter of just caving into the demands of spoiled youngsters, says Siems, but enabling Gen Y employees to work with the best technology out there.
"For a long time, home computing was far inferior to what was available at work," says Mushegh Hakhinian, a CISSP and security architect at IntraLinks. "At some point, consumer devices--phones, laptops and tablets--surpassed the bare-bones business systems approved by IT. The new entrants into the workplace simply cannot comprehend why they would need to use inferior and unfriendly devices when consumer devices can provide superior productivity."
Next: Survey Finds Gen Y Employees Won't Be Denied Mobile Devices