Technology in the 21st Century Workplace – Millennials Shape the Status Quo

Submitted by on Wed, 07/20/16

Some say you can identify a generation by the technology that upended the workplace on their watch.

As this line of thinking goes, Baby Boomers were rocked by the electronic calculator and later the personal computer.

For Generation X, it was email and online services.

And now, for Millennials, who are swiftly becoming the predominant demographic in the U.S. labor force, it’s the smartphone and mobile apps.

More than one-in-three American workers today are Millennials, according to the Pew Research Center. And they are a generation of digital natives. They’ve grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops and social media being the norm. What’s more, they expect instant access to information, as well as instant feedback (because after all, they’ve become accustomed to such feedback from years of using Facebook and other social networks.)

Their world is digital. And that fact permeates and colors nearly everything – including where and how they work.

According to a study of Millennials from 75 countries entitled “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace,” commissioned by PwC, this generation has specific expectations about technology in the workplace. They expect it to be a catalyst for innovation, as well as a major avenue of communication on the job. In fact:

  • 59% of those surveyed said an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job
  • 78% said access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work
  • 41% of those questioned said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone

The bottom line? Millennials and their technological penchants are having a profound impact on the workplace.

From employers adapting their IT policies to accommodate Milliennials’ use of the smartphone to companies utilizing mobile apps with increasing regularity to perform various daily functions – the technology-related changes brought about by this generation can be seen at nearly every level of the workplace.

Early Workplace Impacts of Millennials’ Technology Preferences
Some argue that Millennials are making companies function more efficiently, perhaps even more humanely.

Skeptics read on.

Not only is this a generation constantly connected to smartphones, but the Millennial mindset is focused on making all things easier, faster, more efficient and mobile, as well as more personal, inclusive and intuitive.

In the workplace this has translated into apps that are updating or eliminating many old or outdated workplace processes and procedures, according to various media reports.

The overall theme of such reports is that there’s a shift taking place from old school and legacy communications such as email and corporate intranets to newer, mobile friendly tools or communication methods that are more transparent and instant.

A New York Times article for instance, predicts that in an environment where transparency and collaboration are key, email may finally have been dealt a death blow, to be replaced by offerings such as Slack.

One of the fastest growing business applications in history, Slack bears a resemblance to AOL Instant Messenger. However, it adds additional useful functions for the business world such automatic archiving of all interactions, a solid search engine and the ability to work across multiple devices. In addition, Slack is very customizable.

Those paying close attention will note that many of the features making Slack so popular – collaboration, customization, instant communication – are features Millennials are known for championing.

Since its launch a few years ago, Slack has become a partial replacement in the workplace for email and face-to-face meetings.

Another workplace shift tied to the Millennial desire for transparency and love of instant feedback involves managers using productivity apps to measure how employees are performing in real time, instantly establishing new goals, praising accomplishments and rectifying mistakes.

Still other apps allow for everything from scheduling a meeting to submitting expense receipts.

 Companies are also accommodating Millennials by actively encouraging business-focused use of social media at work or offering a choice of smartphones as an employee benefit.

Yes, Millennials and their smartphones have arrived.

Recruiting and Retaining Millennials: Employers Take Note
The same technological leanings and penchants that make Millennials unique, mean that a strategic approach will be essential to their recruitment and retention.

By and large, Millennial employees will be frustrated with older, legacy systems that lack speed and a modern touch.

A survey of 1,000 Millennials conducted by Microsoft in partnership with SurveyMonkey, showed that 93 percent cited modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace.

The survey was designed specifically to delve into what it takes to attract and retain Millennial talent. It identified four secrets to helping Millennials thrive in the workplace. Those secrets are:

  • Create a culture of collaboration
  • Offer the latest technology
  • Keep data safe
  • Have a strong purpose

An article on meanwhile, noted that if Millennials aren’t happy with your business technology they might just leave. The article cited a report from Nimble Storage completed in collaboration with Oxford Economics. The report found 77% of Millennials felt that “sub-optimal application performance” affected their productivity.

What’s more, a millennial-friendly environment may be fully digital, but it also needs to be comfortable and creative, according to the PwC study “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace.” Millennials expect to work hard, but at the same time, they loath sitting in a cubicle for an entire day. Rather, they are drawn to workplaces that are engaging, and stimulating.

And here’s one last parting thought to keep in mind from the PwC commissioned study:

“Millennials tend to be uncomfortable with rigid corporate structures and turned off by information silos. They expect rapid progression, a varied and interesting career and constant feedback. In other words, Millennials want a management style and corporate culture that is markedly different from anything that has gone before – one that meets their needs.” 

The Future of the Workplace
It may sound overstated, but the fact is that Millennials are critical to the future success of businesses far and wide. Their career aspirations, attitudes about work, and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st century workplace.

As for companies without mobile-friendly policies? Best of luck trying to attract and retain younger workers.

As one Millennial commented in a news article on the topic — mobile technology is the generation’s lifeblood. 

The bonus for everyone is that technologies borne of the millennial mindset will likely give us all flexibility, agility and mobility.


Learn more about engaging Millennials in the workplace by watching this webinar-on-demand: “Improve Millennial Engagement in the Workplace with a Mobile App.”


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