In July 2012, University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School and the Young Entrepreneur Council released research showing that Millennials will comprise 36% of the workforce by 2014. Why does this statistic matter? Certain traits define Millennials, depending upon whom you ask. They are considered to be either digitally adept or obsessed with social media. Many see Millennials as disloyal because they have a tendency to leave jobs for higher paying roles, whereas others might appreciate their flexibility. One thing is clear: Millennials will become a larger part of the workforce, and the enterprise must adapt to them to survive and succeed.
Chris Moyer, CTO, HP Enterprise Services, offered some advice for businesses about handling this shift that the workplace will undergo. One of the first recommendations Moyer made is to let go of any negative preconceptions you might have of this age group. A popular stereotype of Millennials is that they are self-absorbed, which he does not believe. “I do, however, think that they have a higher level of expectation due to the way they have been brought up with technology and the cultural influences that have shaped their thinking,” Moyer remarked.
As a result of their upbringing, Millennials think different than their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. “They are less constrained by more traditional views of how to engage across levels of an organization,” Moyer explained. “They believe that their insight and ideas should go to the person most likely to act on it or benefit from it, even if that is in the boardroom or with senior executives in their workplace.” Instead of feeling uncomfortable with this mindset, Moyer urged businesses to embrace it because this demographic is vital. “Millennials are a big part of the talent pool and make up a significant part of the consumer base, and organizations need their contribution and spending,” he remarked.
In addition to embracing the way Millennials think, Moyer also suggested that companies adopt the technologies to which this age group is accustomed to using. One such technology is cloud. Moyer advocated moving business applications to the cloud to give Millennial employees the user experience they have in their personal lives. He acknowledged that the shift to the cloud cannot take place immediately. “While cloud solutions will continue to expand, the challenge in transforming all applications and the underlying license/commercial models will take a long time,” Moyer said.
The cloud enables Everything-as-a-Service (XaaS), which refers to the delivery of various services over the Internet as opposed to locally or onsite. Millennials have eagerly adopted XaaS in their personal lives for things such as email and file storage. They expect to be able to use it in their work as well, which would enable them to complete projects anytime and anywhere. Moyer pointed out that there are clear benefits to the enterprise adopting XaaS. “This model enables organizations to implement new services faster and in a scalable manner,” he commented. “They can scale successful services through these models and expand the access to any mobile device. In addition, data, services, and applications can be widely available on demand, anywhere, from any device, at predictable cost.”
Being able to access and transmit data over the Internet has its risks, though. “While supporting user-owned devices in the workplace can increase productivity and employee satisfaction, it can also bring risks to corporate data and reputation, as well as increased costs,” Moyer remarked. To protect valuable digital assets, businesses must employ a comprehensive approach to educating the workforce about security threats. Moyer added that organizations must also respond quickly and effectively to stem the impact of a breach and reduce their exposure to vulnerabilities.
Aside from how Millennials behave and want to work, motivating them is very different than in other generations. Moyer recommended using gamification, the application of elements of game play to other areas in life. Millennials respond well to gamification principles because of the basic human reaction to competition. “The same psychological motivations that drive employees to strive toward being the ‘employee of the month’ are useful in meeting business-driven objectives throughout an organization,” he remarked.
Moyer warned against looking down upon the effectiveness of gamification because it might not sound serious. “Don’t let the label fool you,” he commented. “It is not a “game,” but instead is focused around specific strategies to harness human behavior, metrics and feedback to achieve desired business results from employees and consumers alike.”
Millennials can make the enterprise a more connected, more innovative, more efficient and more enjoyable place. If businesses do not adapt to the way this demographic works, their competitors will.
Correction: Millennials describe those born between 1980 and the early 2000s. Text has been corrected to reflect this.
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