Young workforce will affect technology in workplace

SAN DIEGO — As the federal government reaches out to young workers, agencies have to adopt new technologies, such as instant messaging, and recognize their innovative uses in the workplace, officials said Monday. The incoming wave of younger employees expects to be able to use those technologies.

The government’s workforce is aging and the majority is nearing retirement age. In the years since they arrived in public service, technologies have progressed rapidly. As new forms of technology have emerged that can double for both workplace and personal use, such as IM communications, agencies and companies have established use policies for them, company and agency officials said at Federal Computer Week’s Government CIO Summit in San Diego.

Young people are using those technologies, to which they have grown accustomed, to increase their productivity in the workplace. To them, IM technology is a tool and a means of multitasking, said David Sullivan, vice president of information technology at Hampton Roads Transit.

“I see a lot of value to it,” Sullivan said. IM brings together people at different sites, he said.

In addition, agencies can save logs of IM conversations for documentation or later reference. The Defense Department is doing that, said Vern Bettencourt, the Army’s deputy chief information officer.

Cora Carmody, SAIC's executive chief information officer, said young employees often are taking a technological step backward when entering the workplace. They expect to find wireless devices in businesses, when some companies may not have them.

Commerce Department CIO Barry West said agencies must consider how to make the most of those new technologies. As the workforce grows younger, the employees will come in with the expectation of having familiar tools available.

However, CIOs must balance the benefits of the newer innovations with security and privacy needs, based on agency and company policies, West said.

"There will always be a gray area there," Sullivan said.

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