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The Impact of Younger Staff on Technology

The truth is, I’m not getting any younger. I can still recall a time when I was “the young guy” in the office. Way back in the early ’90s, all technology problems wound up on my desk (I was a marketing assistant at the time). This was because I really liked technology and had the patience to figure things out. So the other staff came to me for help.

Here in early 2014, as the Millennials make their mark on the business world, I’m seeing how “the younger generation” is having an impact on how organizations select, implement, and use technology. Here are four significant factors being driven by younger staff:

  1. They grew up on the web, so they expect everything to be simple, intuitive, and often wizard-driven – This applies to essentially all technology in use in the office, but especially to the database, the website content management system, and email communication tools. For example, many Millenials I’ve worked with cannot understand why the event registration process for their AMS is so convoluted. They’ve grown up on websites that walked them through all kinds of buying processes for all types of different products and services, and they expect their AMS to do the same thing.
  2. They expect the interface to be clean, elegant, and attractive  – I recently had a client choosing a new AMS product and they had narrowed their choices down to two. Staff voted, and my client pointed out that the younger staff had all voted for Product X and the older staff had all voted for Product Y. The difference? Product X was fully web based (and looked like it) while Product Y was a much more traditional database interface. (I’ve written about the importance of the user interface here and here and here.)
  3. They expect to be able to problem-solve using Google – When younger staff use technology and run into a problem, the first thing most will do is check Google to see if they can find someone else who has encountered the problem and provided a solution. Got a problem with your iPhone? Google it. Someone will have solved that problem. They expect to be able to do the same thing with their AMS, their CMS, or any other technology they are using.
  4. They expect to be able to easily query anything and everything (thanks to Google) – The single biggest complaint I get from clients about their databases is that, even if they can get all the data they want IN to the system, they can’t get it out. And very often, younger staff will ask, “Why can’t the vendors create a search tool like Google that I can use for my database?” It may not be fair to the vendors, but life’s not fair.

All of these factors have serious implications for software vendors as well as those of us who manage Millenials. Vendors need to make products that reflect these expectations, and managers need to be able to provide tools that meet these expectations — or they’ll lose staff to companies that DO provide these kinds of tools.

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