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IT & The Millennial Workforce

Technology has undergone an incredible transformation from the time it was first introduced into the workplace, but so has the way we look at IT and the demands the workforce places on it. From the moment word processors and desktops began replacing typewriters, employees became hooked on the power of technology. With the ability to transform workflow, IT was the rock star.

Over time, the prominence of technology in organizations led to its demystification. As more generations were brought up on laptops, gadgets, and the Internet joined the workforce, what was once a sense of excitement and bewilderment morphed into entitlement. It's common knowledge that IT teams face problems such as tight budgets, insufficient personnel, and ever-changing compliance standards. Yet, their biggest challenge may be in keeping up with the expectations of the modern millennial workforce.

The expected level of network performance and wireless access has been raised to an almost unachievable level for most organizations. Employees now feel entitled to work the way they live and to have access to whatever data they need on the device of their choice. Where workers were once content with the technology provided by the organization, today’s tech-savvy millennials demand a certain level of speed and operability that often puts the enterprise at odds with its own best-practices.

So what's the answer? Give in to the demands of the top talent or hold the line on IT protocol? It's an interesting debate that is raging across every IT department. The C-suite supports the increased productivity that comes from anywhere, anytime access to critical data. If employees are empowered and enabled to work more, profitability stands to increase, but at what cost? IT administrators know better than anyone that the wider the access points to the network, the more vulnerable you become to security issues and network interruptions.

Balancing user wants with business need can be delicate for IT. Engaging with a workforce that averages more than three connected gadgets per employee and a mindset that access to the corporate network is an inalienable right can create tension around what is best for the employee versus what is best for the organization. However uncomfortable it is though, IT needs to set boundaries that protect corporate assets, shield them from liability, and ensure network continuity.

This begins by assessing and understanding what's taking place on your network. As the expression goes, knowledge is power, and true change can’t take place until IT has a firm grasp of current operations. From here, you can create and set the protocols that make sense for your business. Whether it is limiting bandwidth levels, monitoring application downloads, or excluding certain devices from the network, IT needs to be the one drawing the line for the workforce to obey.

Setting expectations and restrictions for the millennial technology generation is not an easy task, butit's a necessary one. While I'm not advocating policies that suffocate productivity, it can’t be the wild west of network environments either.

The key is flexibility and education.  IT cannot come across as heavy-handed and isolated --  that only encourages employees to look for ways to bypass IT’s authority.  To keep workers from feeling that these restrictions are unfair, it's IT’s job to educate and remind them that the network is the domain of the organization and safeguarding it is their shared responsibility.

Partnership and understanding rather than punishment is what makes policies successful. Employees deal with restrictions every day, ranging from how fast they can drive on the road to which parking spaces they can use at the office. Having a few network restrictions is a necessary price for good citizenship and safety in today’s world.  Make them understand this and you have a win-win situation.