What IT Managers Can Learn From The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers

by drjim on May 12, 2016

The San Francisco 49ers have discovered how to manage millennials

The San Francisco 49ers have discovered how to manage millennials
Image Credit: Michael Wifall

One of the biggest challenges that IT managers are facing is that they are now responsible for using their IT manager skills tomanage team members who are 18-34 years old. This is the millennial generation and the way that they like to learn and work is very, very different from everyone who has come before them and we don’t really have any IT manager training that tells us how to deal with this type of team member. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers are facing this exact same problem. The way that they are solving it may offer some suggestions for all of us.

Dealing With Shorter Attention Spans

One of the first things that the San Francisco 49s realized about their millennial players is that they are different from their older players. Specifically, they learn differently and when you are trying to teach someone how to play football on your team, this is very, very important. What this meant for the 49ers is that they needed to change how they connected with their new players.

One of the biggest realizations that they had was that these players have a much shorter attention span than other players. This required the 49ers to make some adjustments to how long things were. A typical football meeting can go on for up to two hours. This is way too long for a millennial. Now these meetings have been broken into multiple 30-minute “blocks”. Each of these blocks is then followed by a 10-minute break that allows the players to do what they really want to do – use their cell phones.

Traditionally, NFL teams have been very conservative and slow to change. However, when you’ve hired a new star player for potentially millions of dollars, you need to make some adjustments. Instead of trying to make the millennials change to match the way that the 49ers do things, the 49ers are in the process of making changes in order to do a better job of working with their millennial players.

It’s The Coaches That Need To Change, Not The Players

Traditionally when players were at training camp, they would be handed a printed schedule that told them where they needed to be at all times. However, times are changing. Now each player has a digital calendar and alerts about upcoming meetings that they need to be at are sent to their cell phones. Initial concerns about technical glitches resulting in players missing meetings have largely been proven to be unfounded.

One advantage that the new way of teach the millennial players has brought about is that with the new digital devices that are being used by each player, video about past plays can be downloaded to each player’s device so that they can review the individual plays. The result of this is that almost every piece of information that they need is available to them at all times. These players have come to expect instant information.

The rapidly changing world of technology means that the 49ers coaches cannot afford to sit still. They need to always be learning. The 49ers coaches have a weekly meeting in which they are taught about all of the new apps and technologies that their millennial players may currently be involved with. Despite the fact that all of the players have gone digital, some of the coaches choose to still hang on to paper records just because that is what they are more comfortable with.

What All Of This Means For You

IT managers have a new challenge: managing millennials. This group of workers is younger than everyone who came before them and they learn differently. What we need to understand is that in order to connect with these members of our team and do some IT team building, we need to make changes – not them. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers are facing the same problems and have a plan for dealing with it.

The San Francisco 49ers have realized that one of the biggest changes that they need to make is to deal with the fact that millennials have a short span of attention. They’ve shortened meetings and started including more breaks in order to attempt to keep the attention of their younger players. The coaches have realized that they need to change how they connect with their players. This means using more electronic devices and finding ways to use apps to communicate with players.

IT managers can learn a great deal from what the San Francisco 49ers are currently doing. If we can find ways to cater to the fact that our millennial team members are going to have shorter attention spans, then we’ll be able to connect with them. Now if we can only find out how to use cell phones to connect with our team members, then we’ll have solved the challenge of managing millennials.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should make social media a part of how you manage the millennials on your team?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

Not all IT managers are created equal. In fact, some are boys and some are girls. The girl IT managers more often than not have to use their IT manager skills to juggle a number of different responsibilities including being mothers. This is not an easy thing to do and there is no IT manager training that will show us how to do it. However, some women IT managers are able to pull it off. How do they do it?

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