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Saturday, June 04, 2016

Appreciating a Multigenerational Higher Education IT Workforce | EDUCAUSE Review

This article is drawn from the recent research by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) on the evolving IT workforce needed to support contemporary models of IT service delivery and the emerging world of analytics. The research provides a general picture of the state of the IT workforce, as well as explores the roles, competencies, and career trajectories of incumbent (and aspiring) senior-most leaders in information technology, security and privacy, data, and IT architecture. The research will define professional competencies and lay the foundation for tools that can guide professional development and career planning.

Photo: Eden Dahlstrom
Eden Dahlstrom, chief research officer for the Data, Research, and Analytics (DRA) unit at EDUCAUSE summarizes, "According to a study published last year by the Pew Research Center, the United States recently passed a milestone in the U.S. workforce: there are now more Millennials in the workforce than any other generational group (see figure 1)."

1 Millennials were born between 1981 and about 1997, Generation Xers were born between 1965 and 1980, and Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964.2 The youngest members of the Millennial Generation are just now entering the workforce, and the oldest members are growing their careers. The youngest Boomers are in their peak productivity and wage-earning years, whereas the oldest members are retiring from the workforce. Gen Xers are situated firmly in the middle.

Why do generational cohorts matter?3 After all, they are stereotypical characteristics attributed to a group of people who happen to be born within about twenty years of one another. Like most other stereotypes, these cohorts tend to be based on a sliver of truth, and from a practical perspective, the oversimplified generalization of traits allows us to create mental shortcuts and categorize an otherwise complex world. To use my own example, I am a Gen Xer, and I have eight direct reports: two are firmly defined as Millennials, two are on the Millennial-Gen X cusp, and the remaining four are entrenched Gen Xers. I report to a Boomer. I interact with all three generations on a daily basis, as do most of you reading this article. Understanding a little bit about the core work-related values of a multigenerational workforce can help optimize the work environment, leverage natural generational attributes, and maximize productivity. In addition, we can't stop the hands of time: all of us will move on in our career paths and will eventually retire to enjoy our golden years. One day a Millennial will have my job, and presuming stability of the position, a Post-Millennial will have the job after that. 

As more and more Millennials are integrated into higher education work teams, an understanding by Gen Xers and Boomers of the next generation of IT workers and leaders—and Millennials' understanding of the current generations—will help colleges and universities maintain business continuity during the generational transition. Millennials bring a fresh perspective to the table. Their youth can infuse energy into teams, and their lack of entrenchment in the ways things have always been done can help others embrace transformative innovation opportunities. In the first quarter of 2015, the overall U.S. labor force was composed of 34 percent Millennials, 34 percent Gen Xers, and 29 percent Boomers.4 For comparison, the recent survey by the EDUCAUSE Center for Analysis and Research (ECAR) reported 12 percent Millennial respondents, 47 percent Gen X respondents, and 41 percent Boomer respondents (see figure 2).5 Either ECAR surveys don't appeal to Millennials or there is an underrepresentation of Millennials in the higher education IT workforce. A recent Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) study, Managing the Multigenerational Workforce, points to the latter. Only 19 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds in that study say they are interested in an IT career.6 This isn't very promising for members of the higher education IT community, who will need to backfill positions vacated by retiring Boomers and career-building Gen Xers. 
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Source: EDUCAUSE Review