Do we need a digital workplace for Millennials or for the rest of the workforce? Actually, it’s both

By May 4, 2016Blog posts

Are Millennials must-have employees we should bend over backwards to appease? Or overly-ambitious tyros that need to pay their dues?

Whatever your view, an Economist Intelligence Unit report suggests the digital workplace demanded by Millennials is favoured by all employees. Perhaps it’s a case of ‘and-and’ not ‘either-or’?

Last year, Millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) surpassed Gen Xers as the largest single element of the US workforce. And hiring managers say that Millennials are technologically adept, quick learners, and have skills prior generations do not. However, a PWC study found that 72% of Millennials feel they make some sort of trade-off when it comes to work, and it is estimated that 60% will leave their jobs within three years. This has led to a sense of panic in HR circles and calls for the implementation of a more Millennial-friendly workplace.

And what kind of workplace should that be? Well, an internal PWC study found “Millennials believed that productivity should not be “measured by the number of hours worked at the office, but by the output of the work performed,” and PGI reported that 81% of Millennials think they should be able to make their own schedule. Given Millennials comfort levels with technology, this has driven demands for a Digital Workplace with BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies and a greater emphasis on work as an activity, not a location.

Is the tail wagging the dog?

A counter-argument to this Millennial hyperbole appeared in the Huffington Post recently. Abby Miller, a highly-respected College-to-Workforce researcher and author said, “The stereotypes of Millennials are not that different from those for any other generation of twentysomethings transitioning from school to work. Millennials coming out of college… want to be promoted, they want to be experts, and they want it to happen right away, just like Gen X graduates did in the 1990s.” She concluded that we should help Millennials adapt to the workplace rather than expect the workplace to adapt to Millennials.

The middle ground

Stepping into this debate is the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) with its ‘Mobility, performance and engagement’ study. It states there are four main trends driving mobile adoption in the workplace: the ability to work anytime, anywhere; improved collaboration; access to mobile information; and greater freedom in the workplace. It also claims a 16 per cent increase in employee output and a 20 per cent hike in employee loyalty.

Now, this is exactly the kind of ‘mobile first, cloud first’ Digital Workplace that Millennials have been clamouring for – and precisely the kind of outcomes that business leaders would hope to see from these investments. But this was a study of the entire workforce, not merely of Millennials. Indeed, the only real difference between the two was a willingness to vote with their feet – 40 per cent of Millennials said they would never work for a company that didn’t allow them to use their own mobile devices at work, compared to 22 per cent of all employees. (This is the kind of impatience that Abby Miller alluded to above!).

We want the same things

So, whether you think Millennials are a force to be reckoned with or merely tolerated, the kind of digital workplace that they want is exactly the same environment that the rest of us would like to see as well. So this is not a case of balancing one set of interests against another; but of simply doing what makes sense for everyone.

Author: Iain Halpin

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