By: Diane Stirling
(315) 443-8975

Enterprise technology employers need to hire for jobs being vacated by retiring baby-boomers, the workers who’ve been keeping their systems going for decades. Yet, the college students they interview who are educated, trained, and eager to find interesting jobs don’t appear to have the right skills, many company hiring managers say. And on the flip side, students may not perceive large enterprise companies as the types they’d like to work for—places that are socially and environmentally conscious, and that offer exciting professional challenges and innovative products.

What’s occurring is a “substantial generational disconnect,” and it’s a situation that’s doing both parties a disservice, according to School of Information Studies (iSchool) Associate Professor of Practice David Dischiave. Helping companies recognize this dichotomy is a subject that Dischiave will address at IBM’s InterConnect conference this week. He’s been invited by IBM to speak to dozens of mid- and senior-level hiring managers in a talk, “Reaching The Millennials With Easy and Agile Application Development,” which he is presenting on Monday.

Addressing the future direction of large-scale enterprise application development and the sort of tools that will be needed by the new generation of information technology professionals is something of both art and science to Professor Dischiave. A hiring manager himself for many years in large enterprises, he recognizes the intensity of a hiring manager’s needs. However, as a teacher of millennial-generation students, he knows from the surveys he’s conducted every semester for the last eight years that the newest generation of information technology workers is distinctly different in workstyle, workplace characteristics, and professional outlook.

The “millennial generation,” individuals generally regarded as being born from about 1980 through 2004, “is a competent, capable, and confident workforce,” Professor Dischiave says, despite being very different from the Baby-Boom workers who have been keeping enterprise systems up and running for many years. “It’s a concern because there are fundamental differences in how young people view the workplace,” he notes. “College students today are smart, savvy, globally aware, confident, and they easily adapt to change,” Dischiave says, “and those are skills that are valuable in the workforce.” Nevertheless, today’s young professionals prefer different tools and interfaces, for example, personal devices as opposed to large systems; and graphic interfaces and touchscreens—computing styles that aren’t necessarily reflected within enterprise systems, the professor adds.

Dischiave said he will tell the group about ways they can overcome these generational differences, but also will suggest that the firms must examine their own communication, interviewing, and hiring practices to do so. For instance, “Companies need to show an interest in working with students regarding enterprise level technology; they need to examine the message they send students about the kind of company they are; and they may need to change the means and the speed with which they interact with today’s graduating students in order to generate a more positive interpersonal exchange,” he noted. some companies have a recruiting cycle of six months between an initial conversation and hiring, Dischiave illustrated, and yet students have an expectation that they will hear a yes or no about a job within days of a personal interview.

“Companies need talent. They need to get qualified new employees who can do the level of work required by the enterprise, keeping major information systems running, adding to existing ones, and building new ones,” he said. That’s why “it is essential that employers who have enterprise technology jobs to fill need to recognize the generational differences between their existing employees and today’s new hires, and adapt their approach in order to successfully fill current and future job openings. Companies also need to be able to provide new hires the right tools so that they can be productive immediately upon hiring,” he added.