Generation 2.0 at Work Generation 2.0 at Work

data on an unauthorized source that lacks proper security.

Technological innovation brings new conveniences and threats. Want to store a project on a portable hard drive to take home and perfect over the weekend? It could fall out of your pocket or purse and be picked up by a stranger. Those nifty instant messages are great for communicating with co-workers, but also serve as ways to bypass firewalls. Someone could unknowingly introduce malicious code to the network by sending a link to a questionable Web site through an instant message.

Dan Ross, Missouri's CIO, is aware of how security can be compromised. He oversees the Information Technology Services Division, which serves 14 state offices and more than 34,000 state workers. Still, Millennials don't scare him any more than employees of other ages when it comes to creating security risks.

"I don't worry about Millennials at all; they'll be great employees," Ross said. "And a percentage of them will do stupid things, just like a percentage of 50-year-olds will, so I don't see any difference there. It's about educating your employees and making sure they have a full understanding that if they inappropriately use state equipment there are consequences."

Ross actively encourages Millennials to join the work force. On Feb. 15, 2008, his department hosted a job fair in Second Life, a popular three-dimensional online virtual world. Their thinking was to recruit young people to government jobs by going to an environment many of them access. Missouri didn't hire any Millennials from that event, but many expressed an interest. More Second Life job fairs are planned. Ross also visits high schools and middle schools to build young people's interest in IT careers. Missouri has a centralized IT department of more than 1,100 employees, and 51 are Millennials. Ross expects 60 percent of his work force to be eligible for retirement between now and 2018.

Millennials and the Future

How might young people be workplace assets? Could all that time typing or texting make them speedy typists, able to whip up memos at the drop of a hat? Does familiarity with new and emerging technologies have its benefit? You bet, according to Dustin Lanier, director of the Texas Council on Competitive Government. The council brings state leaders together to shape policy for government departments, including IT.

"I think they've built an approach to work that involves a lot of multitasking," Lanier said of the Millennials. "Something will be loading on one screen, you alt-tab to another application and pull up an e-mail, the first process loads, you flip back, start a new process, flip to a forum and pull up a topic. It's frenetic but normal to that group."

Lanier doesn't think Millennials present more of an IT threat than their older co-workers. After all, young people don't have a monopoly on being distracted in the office. "I can't tell you how many times I've walked by people's desks of all ages and seen Minesweeper up," he said.

He thinks employers should embrace some Web 2.0 applications. Otherwise, Millennials might be discouraged from sticking around. According to Lanier, this younger work force comprises many people who think of themselves as free agents. Government should accommodate some of their habits in order to prevent them from quitting.

And of course, no discussion of the Millennial work force would be complete without input from the Millennials themselves. James Clapper, 27, and Josh Bradley, 21, work for the Missouri state government. They have ideas on how their generation could change workplaces in the future.

"As a state employee, we already rely on technology for communication," said Bradley, a computer technologist trainee. "We rely on our e-mail rather than phones most of the time." He predicts society will become continuously more dependent on technology.

Clapper, who works as a computer information

Hilton Collins, Staff Writer Hilton Collins  | 

Hilton Collins is a former staff writer for Government Technology and Emergency Management magazines.