Monday, June 20, 2016

Introducing “Generation Swipe”: Nuclear’s Newest Interns

The following is a guest post by Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides, senior manager of strategic workforce planning. 

Elizabeth McAndrew-Benavides
Interns this summer will deliver more to the office than their energetic personalities, they will be bringing a new generation into the workforce. This year’s crop of interns includes the first wave of new post-Millennials who were born between the late 1990s through the 2010s. As we will see, these college students have grown up with a significant amount of their socialization being online and in a world where their schools are not always safe. It is now time for companies to understand what this new group of employees will bring to the table.

This generation after the Millennials has yet to be named, but I like to think of them as Generation Swipe. From an early age, these young adults were able to “swipe a finger” and create Minecraft worlds. They swipe to watch videos and they swipe to chat with grandma.

We know less about this new generation than we do about Millennials, but we know enough to have an idea of what Generation Swipe may be like in the workplace. First, let’s consider that technology is even more important to Generation Swipe that it was for Generation X and the Millennials. Generation Swipe grew up with the Internet available to everyone, everywhere. Wifi-enabled devices became common and these students literally grew-up with instant messaging in their cribs.

With Internet readily available, Generation Swipe had access to games, digital arts and education apps designed to give them complete creative control of their worlds. This accessibility will provide two likely outcomes. Generation Swipe may be the most creative generation the world has ever seen, but they are also going to want the most control. Nuclear companies should engage these new employees with cutting edge technology and allow them creative control to solve problems.

I promised I would explain the impact of school violence. Attracting Generation Swipe to nuclear careers will be different from what attracted Millennials and Generation X. School shootings have increased during Generation Swipe’s lifetime. These incidents have led to heightened physical security as a priority.

Generation Swipe has unprecedented cyber-literacy meaning they understand what hacking is and what harm it can cause. We can attract students with opportunities that will resonate with their interest like solving cyber and physical security issues. Nuclear Energy’s considerable focus on physical and cyber security rivals any other industry and is something companies should highlight as part of their recruitment strategies.

What do employers need from Generation Swipe? Eventually, leadership. On the leadership front, Generation Swipe might encounter a learning curve when they come to the office. Some of these challenges will take time and effort, but the industry is already preparing with the extensive work currently underway to address teamwork and leadership attributes.

Generation Swipe has more access to technology than any previous generation and specifically has had more screen time than any previous generation. All of that cyber literacy might have come with a cost as Generation Swipe has less experience with face to face conversations. Generation Swipe’s lack of human interaction may translate into this generation being challenged when transitioning into management. Companies can address this by including leadership training and development opportunities to the youngest of employees.

Change is not new for the nuclear industry. Generation Swipe will bring creativity and innovation to our industry. We should not worry when these bright-eyed teenagers arrive in our offices this summer. Instead, we should remember that every generation is different and the nuclear sector has always been able to adapt. Let’s work together to make this transition as smooth and beneficial as possible.

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