Some county government technology leaders say millennials are a great asset to their changing work environments. Others remain cautious.
For county government information technology leaders, millennials entering the workforce present a mixed bag.
On a panel about the “state of the county IT executive” at the National Association of Counties’ Legislative Meeting in Washington, D.C., Barry Condrey, chief information officer for Chesterfield County, Virginia, said millennials were “one of the best things that’s happened in a long time.”
“We find that millennials push the rest of the workforce,” Condrey said. “When you put a high-performing millennial on the team, that’s pressure. They will elevate the team because the team will endeavor to keep up with them.”
Rita Reynolds, the chief information officer for the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania, said the influx of millennials creates a challenge for counties.
“Millennials are technology-capable, but not always technology-literate and knowledgeable,” Reynolds said. “That brings a challenge with it, because [millennials] believe they know everything and there’s not necessarily a true respect for security.”
Even with those hurdles, though, Reynolds said she looks to millennials when she thinks about succession planning for her role.
“We’re not going to be here 15 years from now, or at least I won’t. We have to be able to hand the torch off and respect and grow and mentor the ones coming after us,” Reynolds said. “I think it’s our responsibility as CIOs is to hopefully have a second in command or right-hand person — someone that you see in your organization within the IT department that has a good balance between technical knowledge and people skills and leadership and diplomacy. That’s tough to come by.”
Such succession planning and the integration of millennials into the workforce are both especially key as county government IT leaders change the way they do their jobs for greater effectiveness and attempt to expand their budgets.
In Chesterfield County — south of Richmond — Condrey said his department is working to change the way it approaches county executives and budget officials by emphasizing storytelling rather than numbers and figures.
“The people side of what you’re trying to accomplish should be a part of everything you talk to your elected officials about,” Condrey said. “At the end of the day, someone’s got to talk numbers at some point, but you can’t let that be the focus of what you’re talking about.”
Byron Rice, the information systems director for Summit County, Colorado, said for him, the focus is on relationships — and those good relationships drive progress forward.
“I look to my management staff to try to get a sense on whether they are interested in continuing to be innovative,” Rice said. “A priority for me is to go out and meet with my peers, sometimes it’s structured, other times I’ll just go walk in somebody’s office and strike up a conversation. It’s an effort to do that, but it pays off.”