Tech-savvy. It’s one of the few positive traits almost universally assigned to Millennials. It’s so consistently attributed to us that I began to wonder if the people using the term understood its significance. After asking managers for their definitions, the consensus pick was uninspiring — “being good at using technology.” That doesn’t sound very useful, does it? No wonder ‘tech-savvy’ is practically a pejorative term when describing Gen Y.
How about this definition: tech-savvy is possessing a collection of technology and tech-related skills that act as a platform on which efficiencies are built.
A little more interesting, no? Let’s break it down:
1) Possessing a collection of technology skills…
The skills needed to be able to navigate diverse technology tools are largely developed through experience. We know that Millennials have generally had more experience with technology than other generations. For most, this is where the definition of ‘tech-savvy’ ends.
2) …that act as a platform…
Technology skills today build upon each other, creating a platform for fast understanding of related tools. If you know how to use Microsoft Word, you can easily navigate Excel and PowerPoint. The same with Adobe design software. In mobile, most apps are designed to look and function intuitively, making it exceptionally easy to integrate new tools into the toolbox.
3) …on which efficiencies are built.
Efficiency. This is why we brought technology into the workplace, isn’t it? We want to do our jobs faster and better. We want to communicate more effectively. We want to remove redundancy, increase our capacity to do good work, and be as responsive as possible to the diverse network of customers and colleagues that we serve and support. We want more and better information that we can use to make faster, better and bigger decisions. Ultimately, we want to do be more valuable to our customers, and certainly more valuable to them than our competitors.
Efficiency is why tech-savvy matters.
Going back to those who use tech-savvy as a descriptor for Millennials, please allow me to challenge you to replace ‘Gen Y is tech-savvy’ with ‘Millennials have the ability to be significantly more efficient than their non-tech-savvy peers and managers.’ That’s a pretty big difference.
From there, I’d ask these three questions:
- Would you think differently about the impact that Millennials can have in your organization if you changed your language in this way?
- If you have a team of people who are not particularly strong in using technology — or are outright hostile to it — are you comfortable with passively deciding to force your Millennial workforce to work well below their capacity?
- If your competitors choose to exploit the efficiencies that Gen Y workers can bring, are you confident that you can consistently grow your business without the benefits brought on by those tools and skills?