All Aboard the Technology Train
Humans have innovated since God asked us to subdue the earth in Gen. 1:28. Cain and Abel perhaps used Neolithic tools for farming and herding. From Gen. 4:21-22, we know that technology progressed as Tubal-Cain forged implements of copper and iron.
Technology impacts the jobs we do, the nature of our work, our identities within the workplace, and the product or service that we deliver. It is introduced in the workplace to increase efficiency and productivity.
We can divide the workforce into three types of workers based on their interaction with technology – creators, implementers and users. While the implementers are the key decision-makers on how technology is applied, they share responsibility with the creators, who hold the key to technological advancement, and the users who ultimately interact with the technology.
Generations in the workplace today
There are as many as five generations in today’s workplace. They are Traditionalists (born 1925-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), Generation X (born 1965-1980), Millennials (born 1981-1996), and Generation Z (born 1997-2012) according to a study by Pew Research Center.
Although it is good for the economy to have people of multiple generations contributing to its productivity, it can be stressful and sometimes counterproductive to work side-by-side with those who think, act or behave in completely different ways. To make the workplace an environment in which everyone has the potential to thrive, we must consider generational differences between each group caused by life situations or experiences which affect values, attitudes, motivations, worldviews and communication styles.
Generations and technology
Every generation sees the technology train leave the platform.
In the past 100 years, no factor has had such a significant impact on people of every age group as that caused by the rapid advancement of technology, particularly in the area of communication. Our communication changed from face-to-face meetings in conference rooms to written documents to bite-sized nuggets of thought shared in fractured sentences across multiple mobile apps.
Traditionalists were the first generation to travel by air and railroad for business meetings. Their interactions were direct and face-to-face. Baby Boomers saw the rise of telephones and fax machines as tools for communication so that workplace meetings could happen without the need to be in the same room physically. Generation X began to use emails and the Internet for communication and information exchange giving greater emphasis to the written word over verbal communication.
Millennials not only use the Internet as a communication tool but take it to the next level by staying connected 24/7 and working simultaneously across geographies and time zones. They don’t just give instructions on what to do; they work together in agile teams led by coaches rather than bosses. Members of Generation Z are digital natives who use personal mobile devices for multitasking at all times of the day, holistically integrating education, work and pleasure. They work not as individuals, but as members of a workplace community made of co-workers across dispersed locations.
It is encouraging to see that technology in the workplace has evolved to where there is potential for us to build stronger communities of co-workers. It is a result of natural progression in the creation, implementation and usage of technology. Those of us belonging to older generations must recognize that, over time, communications technology has improved in terms of the humanness with which it facilitates interactions.
Learning from other generations
If we are to embrace all the benefits of today’s technology, we have to humble ourselves and learn from Millennials and Generation Z.
First, we must realize that aging is a multigenerational phenomenon as it occurs concurrently across different age cohorts. Therefore, older generations need not feel embarrassed that they are unwanted strangers at the technology table. The second step is to enter the digital spaces in which the younger generations interact, especially in social media. The third step is to use the technology for interpersonal interactions between peers in the workplace. Last, we should immerse ourselves in the new online platforms to such a degree that we make it the new normal for workplace interactions between all generations.
Every generation sees the technology train leave the platform. It is up to each individual in that generation to jump on the train.
Joseph Vijayam is the CEO of Olive Technology. He serves as the Catalyst for Technology for the Lausanne Movement. Along with his focus on global IT solutions, Joseph has years of experience in Christian ministry around the world and is an advocate in the Business as Mission movement.