You say goodbye, Facebook, and I say hello.

Someone I connected with on Twitter asked me how I handle the generational gap with things related to technology. She mentioned that there are some who are not open to new technological advancements and that these same folks rarely want to get retrained (or trained for the first time, for that matter) to use the latest tech devices/sites/etc.

It’s pretty ironic that this is being directed at me, since I’ve referred a couple of times to my record when it comes to patience. But suffice to say I’ve been able to keep my cool, which has done wonders to help me push our social media campaign forward, even when it’s something that the people in charge aren’t as comfortable with.

So let me take a step back and say that a few months ago, I was constantly at odds with the person (a cusp Boomer/Xer) who is ultimately responsible for the campaign. It seemed like everything I was proposing (which was obviously perfect) was being ignored and/or shot down. My frustration got to me and I started pushing and pushing with a frequency that I later regretted. Let’s just say, this doesn’t get you anywhere. Trust me.

After wandering down this path, I let it be for a while. After a long enough break where I resisted every urge to raise new ideas, I got in touch and started to share my knowledge instead of hounding about what needs to be done. I realized that while technology is something I’m comfortable experimenting with, not everyone (including my colleague) feels that way. Sometimes, people need to have their hands held while navigating the technology. They need help to get all of the pieces of the puzzle. So once I imparted what I knew, I worked with my colleague to build a strategy, combining the knowledge and expertise we had in different arenas. And now, we’re a team, which has allowed us to put out a product that I’m proud of (warning shameless Facebook page plug!):

So, how do I deal with generational-related technology challenges? I deflate my ego, put myself in someone else’s shoes and share my knowledge with the people that are struggling. While they claim they don’t want to be trained, in my experience, they just don’t want to spend the time because they think they can’t do it and they don’t want to have to do the work to get themselves up to speed. But if you’re willing to shelve your air of superiority (and believe me, if you’re asking ‘why is my generation more apt at technology’, you think you’re better) and take the time to explain to them the value and then dive into detail about the way things work, they’ll appreciate you and acknowledge that you want to help, that you want to work from the same page and that you’re looking for consensus before moving forward. With those things in mind, these folks will definitely be more willing to look to you for your input while crafting a strategy. They’ll respect you for what you know and involve you instead of pushing you away.

How have you dealt with things like this? Did I miss something? Am I throwing a lot of corporate-speak crap out? What do you think?


8 responses to “You say goodbye, Facebook, and I say hello.

  1. great post, HR intern. valuable lessons to build collaboration and produce really awesome results in the end.

  2. I have to say I was a much happier person before all of this technology consumed me. Now I pour over new gadgets and software. A never ending learning process. Has it gotten me anywhere? I think not.
    Quality of life was much better when life was simple!

    • The HR Intern

      @reillybri – Totally true. The collaboration thing is pretty key to producing something great. As lame as it sounds, 1 +1 can equal 3!

      @Phil – I’m resisting the urge to comment on the irony of that statement as a blog response 😉 I guess it depends what you’re looking for. You say it’s contributing to the never ending learning process, so you’re obviously getting something out of it. What about new connections (myself included)? Take a step further, maybe new business? I’ve said multiple times here that I would never have met many of my contacts without social media. And that has already done great things for me. Sure, it was simpler, but I don’t think quality of life was better – it was just different.

  3. I would be very delighted if I inspired you to write a blog. That is if it’s not in a negative context. I didn’t mean to sound like a stick in the mud but, coincidentally, I was just reflecting on this very thing yesterday. I am very literally consumed by technology. Upgrading software and spending hours learning how to use it, new computers, cameras, blogging, tweeting. A good analogy would be- I feel like a convict staring through the bars at the blue sky remembering what it was like to be free.
    I would continue on but I’m on my way out the door to Best Buy to see if the Geek Squad can help me figure out why the videos I’m shooting won’t play back properly. Carry on.

  4. Being an architect, my experience about generational differences toward technology is more about drawing the line between using it as a productive tool or going to the extreme.

    Putting aside the current economic state of our industry, I have seen employees with 20+ experience literally leave companies when asked to switch from Cad program to another. Now, the issue is on switching from 2d Cad program to BIM. Some midcareer professionals refuse to learn BIM, because it’s an added step to productivity–in terms of having to learn the tool. This technology has a high learning curve because it’s a whole different animal than what it’s like in 2d drawing. So this is where the generations differ.

    On one hand you have a generation that has knowledge and experience bottled up in their heads. On the other hand you have a generation with a lot of “tools” experience but little knowledge and experience about how buildings go together.

    Not sure if ego is the issue because both sides do have their own egos to deal with: The ego of not wanting to learn a new technology because it will slow them down; and; the ego of knowing how to use the technology because one grew up with it.

    • The HR Intern

      @Phil – I hear you’re point. It takes a lot of effort to stay current and up to date. But in my opinion, it’s worth it. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot out of it and I’m excited about the constant opportunities that arise because of technology, specifically social media. I agree that it’s daunting, but I’ve chosen where to get involved – while my Blog and Twitter get a lot of energy, I haven’t really explored Digg and Delicious. I realize that I can’t possibly do everything, so I find where I can be most active and I focus my energy there. I’ve been happy with the results.

      @Lira – Thanks for your thoughts. Yes, that’s definitely problematic. I’ve seen it happen at my own firm. From my experience, you need the top level support to encourage that type of culture change, and you need a champion who is willing to come in and not only train people, but be a resource when there are issues with the software.

      One thing to consider is that many of these people at the higher level don’t feel like it’s worth them learning because they bill at a higher rate and therefore their time is worth more. It would take more money to train them. Also, most of these folks (probably) won’t do extensive work in Revit, so they don’t think that they need to be trained. It’s key to show them why they need to understand it and how their knowledge of BIM will help them work with staff and clients alike to make a better building. Doing benchmarking and showing case studies that highlight BIM’s relevance will definitely help out here.

  5. It always bothers me when people talk about a generational divide, in general but especially in regards to tech. It’s a flawed logic, with a dash of superiority thrown in. I think there are just people, of all ages, who get it and who don’t. My mother is a gamer, has two laptops, is on Facebook and we just gave her an iPod for her 83rd birthday. Doesn’t fit the generational stereotype, does she? I am on the cusp but I could be considered a boomer, and am very tech savvy… I am often a tech resource to colleagues much younger. Perhaps it’s more about genetics than age? There are studies that show there are two basic camps of people… those that are genetically predisposed to change and those that aren’t. Yes, we all work with luddites and they do tend to be older, but I also know many 20-somethings that just aren’t into it and have no desire to be. But even with the “older generation”, I am beginning to think this is less an artifact of age and ability to learn and adapt, and more one of time and information management. I spend most of my day on the computer, love blogs, facebook, youtube, rss feeds… but have yet to get into Twitter. Not because I fear it, but because… I Don’t. Have. Any. More. Time. And I suspect that is the biggest issue with most of the older people you work with. Gen X, Gen Y, Boomers… can’t we all just get along? Just remember, it was a boomer that invented the computer (PC and MAC), the internet, HTML, XML… one of the very first bloggers was born in 1933. You stand on the shoulders of giants, babe!

    • The HR Intern

      @EMac – Of course, you’re right. It’s an easy generalization that’s convenient to make for a lot of reasons. But I stand by it – I think for the most part, it tends to hold. No, not all 20-somethings are into social media, but what percentage of them own smart phones?

      Much of this will change when the new generation appears. I think that the genetics piece is true, that some of us appreciate change while others aren’t predisposed to the ability to change. But for now, part of the rationale behind Gen Y’s general knowledge of technology has to do with the fact that we didn’t have to change – it was a part of our upbringing and we didn’t need the adopting process that Gen X and Baby Boomers did. It’ll be interesting to see how that changes when the kiddies become a force to be reckoned with.

      And of course, thanks to all those giants that DID change – where would I be without them?

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