Martha C. White’s “This is Millennials’ Most Embarrassing Secret” post on Time.com about how Millennials don’t know the systems and software that business requires flooded into my Twitter feed and email inbox all day yesterday with comments such as “how can this be?” and “WTF.” Yet another thing to complain about Millennials for. <heavy sigh> However you can bridge the gap with 3 easy steps that get ahead of this problem.
Problem? Yes problem. And not THEIR problem, ours.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen more and more of what White calls the “yawning knowledge gap” that many Millennials have regarding the “work” technology such as Excel and Outlook that most companies still use to get the job done. While Millennials have lots of technology know-how and can bring their short-cuts and workflows to bear for the benefit of their work teams and places, legacy systems and platforms that most companies are increasingly not used in the college environment. As such it’s not rocket science to figure out that our new employees aren’t proficient in the technology that has become second nature to Boomers and Gen-Xers who grew up in their careers with it.
And woe to the business that finds out that Joe can’t easily maneuver Word or Outlook or Excel at the entry level. As White says millennials’ “lack of technological prowess is costing their employers big-time.”
Don’t wait to find out. As your team hires new graduates this coming summer and fall, get ahead of the problem by not assuming that your new hires are proficient in the technology that makes your business run, and providing assessments and relevant training as early on in the person’s tenure as possible.
3 Steps To Bridge The Technology Gap in The Office
1. Have each new employee conduct 1-2 online courses on Word, Excel and Outlook during their first 30 days. And then have them do additional classes as necessary in the next 30 – 60 days. Use the great online learning sites lynda.com (just purchased by LinkedIn) or www.udemy.com. This is worth the investment (from $25/mo on up) and will save you hours of re-doing work, not to mention frustration.
2. Give each new employee a technology buddy – not from IT, but from the team that they’re going to be on. The Buddy works with each new team member to show how their team uses the different software programs to show how the team’s technology culture works: What are the protocols on email? What gets delivered in word? In excel? In PDF? The more you can document the better it is.
For instance, in our office we do everything we can to avoid sending emails between 7 pm and 7 am. I often work “after” hours to make up for the time I’ve taken out of the regular work day to handle personal obligations, as I know many of my colleagues do. However, I’ve found that the moratorium period helps people “turn off” work, and in today’s blended work/life environment, the more we can help people by not constantly streaming email into their in-boxes 24/7 the better.
Other companies have a “Only in Google Doc” or “Never in Google Doc” rule. Others use systems such as 7Geese, Asana and Slack for objectives & key results management, project management and/or communications. Each team or company adopts these systems to their unique cultures – knowing the systems is not enough. The unwritten rules are the most important ones and with a buddy, new people can graft on much faster.
3. Set technical expectations for each person in the first 48 hours of their employment. Really? Really. For instance:
By 14 days: Proficient in Word
By 28 days: Proficient in Excel and Outlook
By 56 days: Proficient in insert system here
This way the expectations are very clear and you have no ambiguity about how important the technology is to the ability of the team to reach its goals.
Some people will read this and say “we shouldn’t have to do this” or “people should know these things before we hire them.” Well the truth is you do and they don’t. You can either keep beating your head against the wall or you can meet your people where they are so they become full-fledged contributing members of your team as fast as possible. I choose the path of least resistance that doesn’t compromise our standards.
You can read more about closing the gap between Millennials and the workplace in Millennials & Management: The Essential Guide to Making it Work at Work.