We Are Not Google!

September 13, 2007

You don’t say? I thought I just left my dog at home today, overlooked the pool tables, and donated the rest of my salary to charity. Regardless, the clarification may have been necessary for me as a Millennial and fan of all things Google. However necessary, it should not be an excuse from a Boomer to a Millennial regarding a companies lack of desire to accept change.

Since earlier this year when Fortune named Google the Best Company to Work For in America, Google has been brought up many times in the workplace outside of the context of just search and their suite of Web tools. Now their name is being thrown around the workplace by different generations as a form of reference.

Around the same time my Boomer colleague mentioned that our company was not Google, I had a Millennial coworker attempt to negotiate a perk popularized by Google referred to as “twenty percent” time. This is the practice in which Google encourages all of it’s engineers to spend one day a week on projects that interest them regardless of their project team. This has proven to be quite the successful practice for Google which estimates that half of new product launches originated from the 20% time. Alas, as my Boomer friend mentioned, we are not Google and consequently my Millennial friend’s request was denied.

As Google continues it’s path of domination and it’s influence over members of the Google Generation (just made that up, not offical), I believe we will see more and more pressure from Millennials to make the workplace more Google like and give the power to the lowly worker bees to push change and be creative and not just be cogs in the corporate machine.


Wiki Woes

August 3, 2007

A wiki is not a Wikipedia, Wikipedia is a wiki. Wiki’s are not an inherently useless collection of Web pages with lackluster or nonexistent security, history, and versioning features. With that said, is the concept of a wiki that hard to grasp? I mean, its just a simple application that takes inputs through a Web form, stores them, then makes that content visible and readily editable through a browser. Blogs and wikis are technically some of the most simple applications but yet seem to be some of the more controversial collaborative tools that Millennials are using and hoping to share with other generations. Don’t get me wrong, Millennials did not create the wiki concept or technology (see Ward Cunningham) but they have made it an integral part of their collaborative arsenal.

Recently I started a corporate softball team for the IT department at my company. There was an obvious need for some sort of Web presence to hold all necessary information such as rosters, schedules, recaps, pictures, etc. I chose the wiki engine stikipad.com for its simplicity, ease of access, and the fact that it was free. By the end of the season I ended up being the only content generator aside form the blog like comments left by a few team members. I created and maintained all of the pages, I uploaded and linked all of the pictures. I’m fine with putting in the leg work but I was hoping to facilitate collaboration and distribution of content generation. That was not so much the case.

There were very few comments, and some of the comments were there to simply mock the concept of the wiki as if it were a joke. I am still ridiculed from time to time by coworkers for my support of the wiki concept yet no one can tell me why. InfoWorld.com deemed 2004 as the year of the enterprise wiki, yet its 2007 and I’m being taunted. Its as if members of older generations are afraid of wikis and other Web 2.o technologies, like its a bits and bytes version of the plague. In retrospect I think if I never told anyone that our team site was powered by a wiki engine and just let them have at it, the site would have received a much warmer welcome and it would have achieved my goals of collaboration and distribution of content generation. So I’ve learned my lesson, in the future when discussing the wiki concept with seasoned members of a large corporate IT department, refer to it as an enterprise grade content management system with lackluster permissions and oversight.

Bridging the Generational Divide

June 27, 2007

Today the CIO of my company did a presentation titled ‘Generational Insight to Workforce Planning’ which described our companies (and many others) situation of an aging Boomer workforce and a growing demand for young knowledge workers. Obviously there wern’t too many surprises in that presentation since that is much of what this blog is devoted to, but what turned out to be very interesting was the conversation that ensued after the presentation.

The room was comprised of members of all four of the major generations currently in the workplace: Matures, Boomers, Xers, and Millennials. One gentlemen brought up the concept of retirment and the fact that very little has been done in terms of succession planning and knowledge management for his position. His concern was what is going to happen to all of the knowledge hat he has acquired over several decades of dedicated employment when he checks out. My immediate concern was not only what is going to happen to that knowledge, but how will it be managed?

I’m sure that a Mature or Boomer would prefer one means of documenting and handing off information and the growing number of Xers and Millennials would prefer an alternative. So how does the employer choose the most appropriate tools for these different generations? If those older workers are more comfortable with a Word doc or email message but the younger workers would prefer to access and upgrade that information through a wiki or have it incorporated in a mashup or team collaboration area; how do you bridge that gap? It was an eye opener for me as a Millennial in that I know what I want and how I want it. However, I often forget that Matures and Boomers also know what they want and how they want it and that their desires have become much more ingrained into their person over time.

Today’s Corporate Annoyance, Tomorrow’s Corporate Leader

January 25, 2007

We are often called slackers and are generally perceived by older generations as lacking a strong work ethic and having an unjustified sense of entitlement. These older generations are beginning to phase out of the workplace. Some of the elder Baby Boomers have already begun to retire and many more will follow suit in the next decade or two. It will be on the shoulders of the Millennials to back fill those positions, including leadership roles, vacated by the older generations. So how do we go from the slacker kid kickin’ it in his/her cube navigating between several Firefox tabs listening to their MP3 player to becomming team leads, middle managers or even executives?

  • Identify Hot prospects and Replacement Candidates – discuss those rising stars and how best to prepare them for management or specific higher-level positions.
  • Career Planning – allow for individuals to freely discuss career goals and future aspirations within the company.
  • Formal or Informal Mentoring –provide guidance and regular feedback to help younger workers identify strengths and weaknesses. Mentors should provide advice that facilitates that individual’s growth through the company.
  • Corporate Management Training Program – provide a source of future managers, support diversity goals and bring in fresh ideas.
  • Cross-Functional Training Program – infuse some new hires in different technology services to expose them to different areas of the organization.
  • Apprenticeships That Incorporates Other Parts of the Business – the more steeped employees are in business knowledge, the more aligned IT will be with the business side.
  • Leadership Development Programs – combines training, assessments, coaching, networking, etc.
  • Educate Those Rising Through the Ranks – bring in outside help as management consultants and send some workers to management seminars and classes.
  • Succession Planning – allows for the company to quickly react to sudden departures by placing the appropriate individual in that new role based on their long term career goals.

Great leaders are made not born. Potential leaders need to be hand picked by their predecessors and be provided the necessary skills and knowledge to become tomorrow’s corporate leaders while maintaining the characteristics that make members of the Millennial Generation so unique.