Teaching young'uns about tech

2016

Young people know how to work with technology and old people are dinosaurs who refuse to get with the times. Sounds familiar? I hear from our clients a lot about how ‘older workers’ won’t adopt tech and how younger workers (those darned ‘digital natives’) use these tools fluently. Frequently the lesson is to let your younger folks ‘mentor’ the older ones into the wonders of ‘The Cloud, Webcams and Shortcuts Everyone but Old People Already Know’.

That’s a good idea, but I have another one. How about we help the youngsters learn when, how and even IF to use all (or any) of these.

Yes, the mechanics of using Slack, or Office 365 and the like can be frustrating and bewildering to those of us who’ve been around awhile. I have friends still bemoaning the loss of WordPerfect, for crying out loud. Companies would save a lot more money if they could speed up the adoption of technology and get people ramped up faster. There’s no argument there. But efficient use of a software or app is only part of getting work done. That’s where we need to do a better job of helping our newer folks learn as well.

Here are just some of the lessons those of us who’ve trod this earth for a while can bring to the discussion:

Yes, you can use an app for that. You can also get off your @#% and go talk to the person in question. Maybe this is because my own daughter will text downstairs rather than come down to talk to me, and I’m grumpy about it, but communication is more than just passing messages back and forth. When you actually speak to people, you get to know them. Relationships form, social conversations lead to deeper and more practical knowledge. Sometimes you need to actually converse with a person. Call me old school.

The bigger the company, the older and more outdated the technology you’ll work with. Deal with it and get back to work. One of the rude shocks young people get when they enter the workplace is how old the technology is. Kids with the latest version of the iPhone are confronted by laptops that are heavy and slow, versions of software that are almost as old as they are (I’m speaking to you, Outlook 2003 users) and software that still requires antique versions of Internet Explorer.

But it’s expensive and time consuming to migrate a company to a new platform, and with the generation life of software being something like two years, it would be a constant and insane task to be completely up to the minute. So there are two lessons our young Padwans need to learn. First, you have to meet people where they are. It’s lesson one of sales and business. Secondly, Lloyds of London became the world’s biggest insurance company without a single webcam or Prezi lecture. Sometimes you just have to make it work. Whining takes up at least as much time and energy as the task at hand. Get on it.

I’m sorry you have to pack your phone AND a computer. The company’s security is at least as important as your ability to fit everything into a carry-on bag. People used to the convenience of consumer-grade technology and the way they’ve grown to use it are often frustrated by IT and Security measures that are designed to keep the company functioning and free from Russian spammers. Yes, most VPNs are the work of the devil, and YES, changing passwords that don’t include the name of your pet or favorite basketball player is required.

Your VP of sales and your customers can’t read emojis. While the world of work is certainly less formal than it used to be, it is also very different from the casual, instant and frequently TMI world people grow up in today. Someone needs to help new employees understand the tone and culture of the business world in general, and your company in particular. Who better than those of us who have the scars to show our hard-won knowledge. There is a huge need for managers to coach and mentor younger workers, rather than simply throw up our hands.

If we think about work, it’s not only how things get done, but why and to what standards. Only one of those things can be picked up in a YouTube tutorial. Make a deal with your team. Your older folks will stop cussing out SharePoint and actually try it if your younger people will promise to communicate more effectively and stop screening all their incoming phone calls.

Deal?

more articles

About The Author

Wayne Turmel
Wayne Turmel

Wayne Turmel is a speaker, writer and co-founder of The Remote Leadership Institute. He’s passionate about helping people present, sell and lead people and projects using today’s virtual communication technology. His books include Meet Like You Mean It - a Leader’s Guide to Painless and Productive Virtual Meetings. Wayne is based in Chicago, IL.