Teach Young Workers to Be Business Thinkers

Train employees how to think about using data, not just how to use IT systems

While 20-something employees are often a catalyst for bringing new technologies, such as social media, into the corporate world, entry-level workers may lack the decision-making skills necessary for using such tools effectively. It’s a deficit that CIOs have to consider when deploying IT, says Tom Murphy, CIO of AmerisourceBergen.

“They’re not learning how to be critical when looking for data because all the information is right there. Type in a query and 8 million hits come back,” says Murphy, who recently discussed the topic with an MBA class at Ohio State University and an undergraduate class at Villanova University. (For more on decision making, see "You Can’t Use a Smartphone for Everything.")

An inexperienced decision maker may be overwhelmed by the amount of data that’s easily available, agrees Ken Harris, CIO of Shaklee. “All the content in new media helps a good decision maker make decisions faster and better because they see a fact pattern sooner,” Harris says. But for people not as versed in discerning patterns in data, those social media, analytics and collaboration tools “can be a little blinding.” There’s no substitute for the seasoning a decision maker gets through years of work, Harris says, and CIOs should be aware that in many companies, the experience level of employees is trending lower.

One solution, says Murphy, is to set up training programs that teach workers not only how business-intelligence technology works, but also how to think through the business-related questions they want to answer. He suggests, for example, that business units team younger workers with more experienced peers to learn how to analyze data. CIOs are “responsible to people who have different ways of thinking about information,” he says. “You have to know your audience.”

Follow Senior Editor Kim S. Nash on Twitter: @knash99.

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