Human Resources and Technology

How connectivity affects productivity: Thoughts from a baby boomer

September 26, 2014
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My kids have no idea.

My children grew up in the '90s and early 2000s, and I watched with amazement as they taught themselves how to use a desktop computer, barely having to look down as their fingers whizzed away on the QWERTY keyboard. Later, as they entered their advanced math classes, they were required to use graphing calculators for their trigonometry and calculus problems. My time in school was worlds different; my kids are bewildered to learn that I had to use a slide-rule in math class (“what’s that?”) and that I never learned to type until I was an adult. Their idea of antiquated technology is the big cordless phones from the '90s. They have no idea. 

Since my early days in the workforce, technology has evolved at an extraordinary rate. Ease of communication and information sharing has advanced the potential of businesses and leveled the playing field for companies big and small. Recognizing this, it is important for baby boomers like myself to make an effort to stay on top of the latest tech trends and millennial work styles, and more importantly to incorporate these in the workspace. This is just another way that managers can seek to understand the young people they are mentoring. 

Generally speaking, I have noticed that people in my generation have done this and embraced the connected lifestyle in work and at home. I personally have a passion for the latest and greatest wireless technologies, which may explain why I was an early adopter of the Apple TV, Nest and Sonos systems. Believe it or not, I’m certainly not the only “old guy” playing with the toys in the Apple store every weekend!

Teaching an old dog new tricks

That being said, there is still a learning curve for the boomer generation. One of the biggest disadvantages for people my age is typing speed. Few of us had the opportunity to become familiar enough with QWERTY to master it. Just like with a second language, becoming fluent gets much harder the older you get. Even though emailing and texting make workers more productive, boomers usually find that we fall behind a bit.

I remember my early days in sales when the only way to contact potential customers was by telephone. Secretaries were essential because of their ability to type, which was a skill not possessed by many. Every document was on paper, in manila folders and filed in large storage cabinets. Now it is so much easier for sales people to manage leads, prioritize projects, and be more efficient in the sales process overall. Simply having electronic connections like email and texting have absolutely revolutionized the way we communicate. I see my employees being able to reach out to more people, solve problems more quickly, and be more productive because of their ability to connect to each other at the touch of a screen.  

I doubt that our young people can fully grasp just how fortunate they are to grow up in an environment where information is accessible at any time and any place. If they take advantage of this, we are sure to see productivity increase across all industries in the future. Whereas my productivity is still somewhat hindered by lack of familiarity, millennials are poised to use technology to its fullest potential. In my lifetime we’ve gone from slide-rule to iPhone ... who knows what’s next?!

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