Thursday, September 12, 2013

How to Manage the Emerging “C” Generation for Digital Transformation

We all belong to generation “C”-the CONNECTION generation in the hyper-connected digital Era.

Today’s workforce is multigenerational, multicultural, and multitasking, either you are digital native or digital immigrant, we all belong to generation “C”-the CONNECTION generation or CLOUD generation, as the internet makes the business borderless and the world smaller. However, from the management perspective, what’re dilemmas to manage such emerging “C” generation, what’s cultural inertia to improving productivity? Are older workers the barrier to adoption of cloud and online tools?

To label older workers resistant due to a product/service being online or collaborative is overly simplistic: A good tool will be adopted by old and new alike; just as bad ones will be avoided by all generations. Statistically, the highest growth demographic for social media usage is over 55 ages. It is rather the influence of the surroundings, the corporate cultures, past and present, in which they have worked, influences their possibility to adapt and use technology as a working tool.

Find the real root cause of "resistance to change": People who are open minded should adopt the new process and new tool despite their age (more or less quickly depending on their capacity) when people who don't want to change anything in their professional life should resist (at any age). Also, the adoption comes easy when tools are developed and tested with users advice but it becomes a nightmare when the developers work alone based on a rough idea, they will be the only ones able to use their tools.

The design of tool decides how ‘hard’ the adoption would be: Usually, it isn't the tool's online nature that makes adoption potentially difficult. It’s whether the tool -- online or not -- "demands rethinking the patterns and menus that someone has learned.". The issue really comes down is whether these new solutions are “natural” extensions of existing tools, or if they are completely different from a user interface and operation perspective. This is where the generational difference is most pronounced. If a new online productivity tool demands to rethink the patterns and menus that someone has learned, the more resistant they are. It’s not completely driven by age, but perhaps it’s where age correlates best.

Age is not the barrier. But with age comes experience and that can be the barrier: Older workers may be resistant for a myriad of reasons, mostly driven by experience. Older people are less easily seduced by magical promises of benefits and are more likely to hasten slowly into new processes – especially when the existing processes are ‘tried and true’. Also, more experienced people require more practical proof of the benefits; they will adopt change eagerly when they are convinced.  

It’s also about how the products were selected: More often than not, IT organizations tend to focus on the technical elements first, rather than the entire BDAT framework (Business | Data | Application | Technical). If you do not involve the business side of the equation in the selection of the tools, why would they want to play in your sandbox? Perhaps this is one of the reasons why so many of business units are opting to move to the cloud, with or without IT involvement.

There are positive perspectives when new technology or tools get challenged: Seriously, it is a good thing for new technology to challenge and be challenged by experienced workers. It will have a better chance at sustainability and viability. This is not to say the innovation of the less experienced staff is of any less value or that experienced workers are less innovative. This phenomenon has been going on since the beginning of time.

Another facet could just be the control of when to implement change with cost effectiveness: Don’t embrace every trend or fad. Seek the business value before initiating support for the project. Products change and forced migration may not be convenient to the business (timing, training wise). Also, it could mean cost control. Costs for internally implemented products/services can be determined with a high degree of confidence whereas external products can change their pricing schedules bringing uncertainty to costs on a going forward basis.

Hopefully, the new label of “C” generation can unify today’s workforce, overcome the bias of older workers incapable of change, allow management to look at the old problems through the new angles, analyze the culture before criticizing the workforce; dig through the root cause before jumping to the conclusion, to encourage innovation and improve productivity with both strategy and best practices. 


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