Thursday, August 03, 2006

Millenials and working habits

Earlier this week I read an Associated Press wire story which got my attention. It was called Email losing its clout. In many ways it puts fear and trembling into the hearts of many librarians and library administrators, but those who have children of a certain age (i.e. in college recently or now...and that sure includes me), know that sometimes the only way to get a direct answer from a child away from home is to use IM. They ignore the emails!

This generation is hitting the workforce! My middle child (younger son), is an example since he started working recently as an engineer for a major defense contractor in my area. [Those of you from CT know who I mean. They build helicopters and are in the process of hiring 300 more engineers since my son started.]

Here are some key quotes from the article which struck home with me:

It means that many people often don't respond to e-mails unless they have to.

But when immediacy is a factor as it often is most young people much prefer the telephone or instant messaging for everything from casual to heart-to-heart conversations, according to research from the Pew Internet & American Life Project.

You might use text messaging during a meeting that requires quiet...

He prefers IM over e-mail. "It's a way to get a quicker answer," he says.
Libraries -- including mine -- need to deal with this method of communication, and use it to our advantage.

At the end of the article was what I would characterize as a "throw away section" with which I have issues. The article says:
"But companies really need to respond to the way people work and communicate."

The focus, she says, should be the outcome.

"Nine to 5 has been replaced with 'Give me a deadline and I will meet your deadline,'" Kirah says of young people's work habits. "They're saying 'I might work until 2 a.m. that night. But I will do it all on my terms.'"

I have heard a variety of opinions from the millenials I have talked with. Some have adopted the philosophy espoused above. I expect to see an article in an upcoming Library Worklife which will address this issue. At the same time, I remember vividly a conversation I had with a then 20 year old college junior as we sat by the rapids of the Allagash River in the wilds of Maine. She was talking about wanting a job which she could leave behind to do the things which she enjoyed doing (like hiking, canoeing, camping). She was looking for a job like school psychologist where she would get the intrinsic rewards of helping people at work, but still have the summers to do things like act as a guide in the Maine woods. That sure is different than the last line of the quote above. Which is the right characterization? I don't know. Maybe they are both too narrow, and just like with us Baby Boomers, it will vary widely from individual to individual.

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