When we enter the workforce there is no question that we each want to prove ourselves, and along that process, we make time to learn as much as we can from those who’ve come before us. But as we grow as a person (especially within the IT space), does this old adage begin to create more harm than it does good?
My first two blogs in this three-part series on staying competitive in 2016 have bounced between the future – the importance of business agility – and the present – the important role the IT department will continue to play. With this final blog let’s take a look once more towards the future; towards the millennials currently in the workforce and those set to enter it in the coming years.
The old adage will remain present in today’s society, but there are certainly areas in which the older generations can learn from the youth.
Let the young teach us
There is a great line in the third installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy that perfectly encapsulates the argument for millennials. In a scene where Batman attempts to gain an upper hand on his antagonist Bane by fighting him in the dark, Bane responds:
“You think darkness is your ally? You merely adopted the dark. I was born in it, molded by it.”
Remember – the millennials grew up with new technologies all around them, they learned to swipe an iPhone before they learned to tie their shoelaces. As a result, they communicate differently, and work in new ways using interactive platforms, such as SnapChat and WhatsApp to stay connected, and are leveraging these technologies in their business settings to drive higher collaboration and greater convenience in their work processes.
To stay competitive, the IT department must fully harness the strengths of the millennial workforce, a workforce that tends to lead the way in early adoptions. Young adults (ages 18 to 29) are the most likely to use social media – fully 90 per cent do – and chances are high that they’ve played around with the latest social/digital tools making the rounds. Tap into the millennial early adopters and help the IT department get ahead of the competition. The easiest part is that you won’t have to look too hard to find them. Millennials, who were born between 1980 and the mid-2000s, are now the largest generation in North America and are quickly replacing the retiring Boomers. In fact, by 2020, millennials will comprise about 50 per cent of the working population.
They will soon make up a sizeable segment of your employee base as well as your customer base, which is why it is important to adapt your business to cater to their needs and expectations to support optimum work performance. Adoptions might mean transforming office spaces to include more open spaces, fewer conference rooms, and an emphasis on enabling mobility. It can also entail another evaluation of your target marketing strategies to ensure they are optimized for influencing this new and emerging audience of millennials.
While millennials have been depicted as flighty or non-committal, there are tangible, measurable advantages of working with this generation; they’re technically savvy and they’re not afraid to show it. You may not understand their electronic music or their use of emoji, and they may not get why “vinyl is the only way to listen to music,” but a sharing of the minds from a technology perspective can only make your business better.
All in all, businesses and the IT industry can benefit a great deal from fully harnessing the strengths of the millennial workforce. Achieving this will require understanding how they think, how they communicate, what’s important to them, and what technologies need to be incorporated into the workspace to support their unique work style. Such considerations will be critical to retaining your core group of employees and to staying relevant in the market with your business offerings.
Eva Schoenleitner is the vice-president of product marketing at Sage North America. In her spare time, she writes about technology trends and best practices.
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