Young workers find workplace far different from their parents'

Sean F. Driscoll

People in their 20s who are entering the work force are already more connected to each other and the world than any generation of workers before them.

Now, the real changes start.

Today’s new employee is used to getting information now, talking to Tokyo and Berlin at the same time and being on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, thanks to cell phones and e-mail. In fact, they grew up with it.

That connectivity — and the fundamental change it has wrought in the expectations of the next generation of workers — is driving the next business evolution in every industry.

Getting a car loan was once a process of writing or typing out applications in triplicate, said Bill Roop, president of Alpine Bank. Now it’s matter of a few keystrokes on the computer and a decision within minutes.

Young employees “would look at the time it (used to take) to produce something as an enormous amount of time,” he said.

Like writing a check and mailing a bill, he said — relics of a bygone era.

“Our young people don’t even have checks. They just use their debit cards and credit cards for all transactions. To have to write a check and mail a bill, all those things are very foreign to young people.”

“Identity” and “theft” weren’t usually found in the same sentence 20 years ago. Although banks were always conscious of the need to protect their customers’ personal information, there’s more education being passed on to the customer, Roop said.

Having your gall bladder removed used to be a surefire way to get admitted to the hospital for five or six days. Now it’s an afternoon procedure and you’re home by dinner, said Dr. Bill Gorski, CEO at SwedishAmerican Health System.

“You can do all sorts of surgeries with minimally invasive techniques now,” he said.

Patient charts were always a pile of handwritten papers, Post-it notes and scraps of paper, Gorski said. Now it’s all electronic, and nurses may never have written a note in their lives.

“This has completely changed in just the past five years,” he said.

A measuring tape is still a must-have accessory for a home­builder, but laser measuring tools have started to creep onto the tool belts of many younger workers, said Dennis Sweeney, executive vice president for the Home Builders Association of the Greater Rockford Area.

Lasers also make the process of “squaring” a house — making sure the walls all join at 90-degree angles — much easier. “People still used the old-fashioned way, with string and geometry, but there are other ways to do it now.”

Rockford College business professor Steve Kadamian said the fast-paced business world will bring changes in the next 20 years even quicker than before — in part because the workers will demand them.

“The students will have a tremendous impact on change and will be making those changes themselves,” he said. “We talk many times in class about paradigm shifting. The status quo is shifting. Now it’s not shifting, it’s being rewritten, period.”

Sean F. Driscoll can be reached at 815-987-1346

What’s going on

The Beloit (Wis.) College Mindset List was initially a witty way of saying “watch your references” and has turned into a globally reported and utilized guide to the intelligent but unprepared adolescent consciousness. It is requested by thousands of readers, reprinted in hundreds of print and electronic publications, and used for a wide variety of purposes.The name is now licensed to a higher education group in New Zealand that produces its own list each year.