When generations collide

IT departments will have to strike a balance between mitigating IT risks and appeasing the next generation of IT savvy Canadian professionals who demand a “freedom to compute” from their employers.

That was among the conclusions of a recent study delving into attitudes of the younger generation towards technology usage and employer control. The first of a three-part series investigating Canada’s IT generation gap, the study was conducted by CIO Canada’s parent firm IT World Canada Inc. and pollster Harris/Decima Research.

Nearly 20 per cent of the 1,075 respondents felt that corporate computing and Internet restrictions are a key consideration when choosing an employer. And 85 per cent said they agree it is important for employers to encourage employees to be proactive in using their computing skills to improve their work performance.

Respondents ranged between the ages of 18 and 29. Some were already in the workforce and others in academia, ranging from high school to post graduate. “We’re looking at an educated group of upcoming young professionals,” said Lise Dellazizzo, senior vice-president with Harris/Decima Research.

The motivation behind the study was a suspicion that this younger demographic, having been raised on information technology, is accustomed to a different style of computing that is “non-restricted, more personalized”, said Dan McLean, IT World Canada’s editorial and research director. While the generation before them was exposed to computing when they started post-secondary studies or joined the workforce, the next generation perceives flexible computing as a mandatory tool to efficient work.

“The fundamental question,” said McLean, “was how would that potentially impact IT departments that are required to manage computing resources and activity, and likewise how is that going to impact business?”

Businesses need to assess the importance of delivering this flexible computing environment and view it as an asset that will eventually attract talent, said McLean.

“It’s an issue of what’s the corporate philosophy around computing, and whether or not the philosophy of your IT department is one of enablement rather than one of restriction,” he said. McLean added that it all boils down to degrees of freedom. Traditionally, the IT department’s role is to manage IT and therefore control it, whereas the younger generation will increasingly want an uninhibited computing environment, “and that flies in the face of what IT organizations are often about”. – Kathleen Lau

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