One of my favorite all time scenes in movies is in Star Trek 4 (They Voyage Home). Scotty and McCoy are hunting a local professor to get some plexy glass, and strike a deal to get it for free. The deal? Give the professor the chemical formula for “transparent aluminum.” In order to do this, McCoy suggests that Scotty use the computer to show what they have to offer. Scotty walks up to the Macintosh and expectantly says, “Computer?” to no response. McCoy helpfully hands him the mouse and suggests, “perhaps you should use this.” Scotty picks up the mouse and speaks into it smiling, “Computer?” The professor finally says, “why don’t you just use the keyboard?” Scotty grimaces and says, “how quaint!” ((Dialog not accurate, I’m basing the whole thing from memory.))
We are entering the era where we’ll have people in the workforce that have a completely different experience with technology. My oldest nephews all spend their evenings gaming with friends half a world away in real time, through voice, game and social apps. In 20 years, there will be people who may not have had the need to type because dictation is so advanced. (I’m continuously impressed with how well Google can translate audio into text) Forget the fact that I didn’t have a PC until college and I used a typewriter in high school. My newest niece (now 6 months old) will grow up waving her hands at devices or even having them anticipate her next need before she has to act.
I’m and old Gen X curmudgeon, but even I have consumer technology I would not have dreamed of 10 years ago. My scale sends my weight and body statistics to the cloud via wifi every time i step on it. This data syncs to my calorie tracker that I enter my daily food intake into. Both of these sync to my daily workout data. If I work out, my food app dynamically increases the allowable food intake. At the same time, my phone is constantly updating what all my friends are doing and if anyone wants to talk to me.
Star Trek was not supposed to happen until the 23rd century. From the personal technology perspective, we’re already surpassing the Star Trek expectations. Sure, we’re not atomizing ourselves and beaming our bodies across the globe, but the communicator devices in Star Trek we mo better than the cell phone bricks we had in 1997. Phones today do so much more than just being a “communicator” but the idea that all this stuff is sitting in the cloud doing things on our behalf would have been ridiculous a few years ago.
Here’s the point. New entrants into the workforce just don’t get that we are sitting around running reports that have bad data in them. They don’t understand when their manager fills out a form online that appraises their performance over the last year instead of right now. They don’t get why we’ve banned Facebook from the network. They don’t have any idea what you’re talking about when their team isn’t connected in real time all the time and they have to use email for everything.
We’re used to operating in a certain way in business because that’s the way we’ve been doing it. We’ve let technology creep into our personal consumer lives and not expected work to be any different. This new generation grew up with personal consumer technology and getting into the workforce is like going back to the 80’s for them – and they weren’t yet born in the 1980.
Our HR portals as full of link farms. Our call centers are, well, call centers. Policies and legalese written things that don’t communicate anything but what not to do. Information retrieval is like finding a needle in a haystack. We’ve all known that we hate this stuff for decades, but didn’t do anything about it. But alt least we know how to use it. To a Millennial, a link far is like weird old mysticism gone bad. We need to recraft our technologies to make them social, real time, mobile, interactive, and just plain usable. And we can’t wait for them to get used to us, because honestly their way is better.
Time to take a look at good old HR Service Delivery and realize it’s not good, just old. Let’s redo the entire thing in an entirely new way.