by CIO Executive Council

3 Ways CIOs Can Adapt to the Millennial Workforce

Jan 22, 20144 mins
IT JobsIT Leadership

Three CIOs offer examples of how they are accommodating younger workers.

Hiring and managing millennials is a fact of life for IT executives today. We talk to three CIOs about the strategies they are employing with younger workers.

Let Them Talk to Senior Executives

Paul Brady, VP & CIO, Arbella Insurance Group: Two years ago, the IT organization worked with HR to create an entry-level hiring program that helped us proactively plan for future retirements and introduce new energy and ideas. Through partnerships with local colleges and a strong co-op program, we’ve made significant progress. By mid-2014, about 15 percent of our staff will be hired right out of college.

One of the best ways to engage new professionals is to ensure they will fit in with the corporate culture and help them successfully transition from college to the workplace. We’re an IT organization in the insurance industry, so we’re somewhat conservative — we don’t have chilled vodka in the refrigerator.

Someone with a computer science or electrical engineering degree might not be interested in implementing shrink-wrapped systems, so we focus on graduates with business degrees and a technology focus. We also look for people who value the mentoring, career-development and community-involvement programs we offer.

We provide new college grads with the opportunity to work directly with the business so they understand what the company does and how technology affects that. One of the best things you can offer new professionals is access to senior leaders. They’re not going to meet with the CEO every day, but giving them that opportunity early on is very important.

Make Their Contributions Count

Frank DeArmas, VP of IT & CIO for Global Surgery, Johnson & Johnson: We find young employees for our IT leadership development program in several ways–in co-op programs, through college recruiting and via partnerships with technology associations. We don’t sell them on an IT career; we sell them on our company.

We have a great company that does amazing things for people worldwide, and that’s incredibly attractive to new graduates. They want to do more than earn a paycheck; they want to give back.

Once they are hired, we assign them to a class and start their rotations through the company. They want to be exposed to everything. They have face-to-face skip-level meetings (sit-downs between employees two or more levels apart), and I meet with them regularly. When I was coming into the workforce you would never see your boss’s boss, but that’s important to this generation. They make presentations to senior management, because contributing is very valuable to them.

They bring a lot of creativity and innovation, and we want to take advantage of that, so we involve them in our IT R&D program. We put them in the business intelligence group and encourage them to brainstorm. And we’re not just going through the motions. They can see their opinions become reality, and that reality become action.

Value Ability, Not Tenure

Julius Chepey, CIO, APi Group: Since becoming CIO, I have tried to create a collegial environment of peer sharing and support. And you know who’s great at community? Millennials. Those under-30 employees are active participants and relationship builders. They like to voice their opinions even if they’ve only been with the company a year.

We’ve been able to promote our young hires heavily. We hired one gentleman right out of college who worked in our field support office. He was phenomenal, but after a year he got bored. So we promoted him to a project where he is traveling to our 200 locations to work on a technology refresh. His cohort sees that he has been promoted not on tenure, but on ability and attitude, and now they have that “put me in, coach” attitude. And our turnover rate for that population has been zero.

At first, I thought I could just give them a goal and let them figure it out for themselves. But when this is your first real job, you don’t know what success looks like. Now we provide them with a better picture of that goal and how to get there. We don’t go overboard micromanaging them; that’s a gigantic turn-off to these guys. We’ve found the right balance.

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