A new breed of young adults is revolutionizing the workplace. Tech-savvy and quick to adapt to new technologies, millennial workplace expectations are catching employers off guard. Are you prepared for Gen Y?
Born after 1980, the millennial generation hasn’t known a time before personal computers. They have grown up in a world of ever-changing technology, electronic gadgetry and worldwide connectivity. Each and every Gen-Yer recruited brings sophisticated technical skills and a unique set of security, compliance and privacy challenges to the IT departments of companies large and small.
Millennials that are between the ages of 18 and 30 make up 25% of today’s multi-generational workforce and they are poised to become the majority in 2020, according to a PwC report, Millennials at Work. The future belongs to these children of technology. It’s not a question of whether to accommodate a millennial employee, but how.
We live in an increasingly mobile society, fuelled primarily by the mass consumerism of this techno-centric generation. Have you noticed how hard it is to find a bus stop, subway car, or mall escalator where the majority of young people aren’t engaged in the constant data intake and output on their smartphones? Texting is as natural as breathing to Generation Y. They cannot imagine the customary boredom of waiting because they are always actively engaged online –absorbed in gaming, surfing the web or tapping into social media even while crossing the street — anytime, anywhere.
Millennial Workplace Expectations: Adapt to Acquire the Best
As Heather Haverstein notes in a cautionary article for Computerworld, “Companies are increasingly forced to bend to Generation Y to get the best young talent. These digital natives are natural multitaskers, often simultaneously texting on a mobile device and instant-messaging on a PC without removing even one iPod ear bud. Many of this generation can’t conceive of communicating without an instant messaging system or social network.”
Cyber Social Butterflies
According to a recent Cisco survey, Gen Y: New Dawn for Work Play, Identity, this generation is not only connected, but highly active on a daily basis. Cisco interviewed 18-to-30 year-olds in 18 countries, finding that 87% of respondents have a Facebook account and 41% update their information at least once a day, while 20% who update several times a day. The survey found that 56% of these young people have a Twitter account and 21% tweet at least once a day. A smartphone is standard equipment for a Millennial, and 60% of respondents admit to compulsively checking for messages throughout the day.
“Companies really need to loosen up a bit and not play Big Brother too much by worrying about blocking certain social networking websites,” warns Ron Alsop, a columnist for The Wall Street Journal and author of The Trophy Kids Grow Up. “Companies have to realize that they need to meet millennials halfway.”
By and large, Millennials view the workday as part of a life experience that also includes repeatedly checking their smartphones, updating their Facebook pages or sending out tweets and Instagrams. True, they may respond to an instant message on company time, but after the work day is done, they’re just as likely to gather potential new customers and collaborators by networking on LinkedIn or sending out a blog post that promotes their employer’s company.
Attract and Retain
In order to attract and retain the best talent, employers have had to adapt to a new reality–the work-life balance of this cohort is integrated to a greater extent than any previous generation. The Millennial has a need to stay connected, social and stimulated throughout the workday.
Writing in a blog post on his Generation Y website, Ryan Gibson maintains that “a flexible work-life balance is a desire at the heart of Generation Y, so allowing Gen Y employees to structure their working days around their out-of-work life – within reason – might well be a key way of motivating them.”
Generation Y has a much different expectation about the workplace than their parents. The 9-to-5 lifestyle, long daily commutes and spending forty-plus years working for a single employer is an outmoded concept to them.
They have seen the economic turmoil of bursting technology bubbles, along with the out-sourcing and downsizing that have left a legacy of abandoned factories throughout the industrial belt. They have no illusions about a corporation’s bottom-line approach to making decisions about personnel. First and foremost, the Millennial is loyal to his or her own career, and the opportunities for advancement in the short term, as well as the technical opportunities to acquire knowledge and expertise to increase their value to future employers, or to gain the experience necessary to run their own companies. According to CompTIA’s Generational Research on Technology and its Impact in the Workplace study, “Nearly half of 20- to 29-year-olds feel that the training offered by their employers makes them less likely to leave.”
Millennial Workplaces Need High-Level Collaboration
This is a generation who became computer literate in childhood and were schooled to participate in group projects in the classroom. They grew up emailing and cyber-chatting with their peers all over the world, as well as sharing music files, digital photos and videos. They competed and collaborated in playing video games and they have been “liking” their favorite brands and blog posts since they can remember.
Millennials have witnessed the power of social media in stimulating corporate behaviour, creating political upheaval or achieving overnight fame and fortune in the entertainment business. As a generation, they tend to view the workplace as a forum for problem solving, whether collaborating with participants from both internal and external sources.
For the job-seeking Millennial, the workplace needs to offer technological capabilities that enable them to connect and collaborate through instantaneously communication and file-sharing.
Newest Toys, Latest Tools
Ingrained with a passion for technology, Millennials are driven by the desire to be among the first to use the latest and greatest electronic gadgetry. When a new smartphone comes gets to the retailer, Millennials are known to camp outside the store in great numbers to be the earliest adopters of the new device.
“For Gen Y, technology is more than an addiction,” asserts Noah Kerner is his July 2013 article for Forbes Magazine. “It’s how they discover, understand and experience the world around them. And it’s how they always have, which means millennial workplace expectations are vastly different than yours… Though they are demanding, they are also sophisticated consumers and optimistic visionaries. .. Invite them in to participate in the making and remaking of your brand. As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s worth it to get this generation deeply involved in your business as quickly as possible.”
With a need to experience the world through ever-advancing technologies, Millennials are always eager to embrace the latest device and push the envelope of future possibilities. They often prefer to work on their own personal devices with their favourite apps. They may even download apps without informing IT, because the app is primarily for personal use.
Love Those Apps
Cisco found that 60% of this cohort uses one to nine apps regularly, while 20% of the group uses 10 to 25 apps regularly. Generation Y feels confident and comfortable in their own computing environments, but the variety of devices that millennial employees and contractors use in the workplace presents in-house IT departments with enormous challenges.
“Millennials are glued to their gadgets, but many employers restrict what devices may be used in the office out of security concerns,” notes Todd Thibodeaux in his November 2014 article. “Firms that invest the time and effort to devise a BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] policy that adequately balances organizational security needs with employee convenience can benefit from a windfall of employee gratitude. Clearly defined (and communicated) use policies can help guide employees on what behaviors are not allowed, such as storing sensitive data in a personal cloud storage account.”
An inherently mobile generation, Millennials can work from anywhere on any device, and that’s the way they like it. Most of them would prefer to be location independent. Staples conducted a 2014 survey showing that telecommuting is increasingly attractive to employees – with 71 percent of telecommuters saying it’s an important benefit when considering a new job. Who needs the office? Generation Y is known to prefer electronic messaging to face-to-face communication. They are age to utilize all the enabling technologies for remote participation including video conferencing and Skype.
With increased mobility comes the greater likelihood that high end laptops, smartphones and tablets will be lost or stolen. This can be disastrous, not only in terms of costs and inconvenience for the individual user, but can also result in a loss of important or sensitive data that may compromise the employer’s business. This is another issue that has prompted IT managers to seek cloud solutions for guarding against lost data.
Heads in the Cloud
According to a recent IBM study, 85% of new software is being built for the cloud. In addition, 25% of all the world’s apps will be available on the cloud by 2016. As the first generation of digital natives, Millennials have an intuitive understanding of cloud accessibility and accessing digital information from cyberspace, having spent their formative years downloading music files, watching YouTube and viewing movies on Netflix.
“Millennials place great emphasis on a flexible, mobile-friendly work culture,” notes Chris Nerney, Using the Cloud to Entice Millennial Workers. “Cloud enables this by allowing workers to access and share files, data and applications from anywhere and from multiple devices… A recent IDG Research Services survey shows that many enterprises are using cloud technology to entice millennial employees. Nearly half (48 percent) of survey respondents said cloud was part of their recruiting strategy, with 9 percent saying it’s a large part. Respondents who are making cloud part of their enterprise recruitment strategy say that cloud helps create an attractive work environment for millennials.”
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