By limiting Millennial workers, companies are stifling the very skills they need for future success, says PGi’s Mike O’Boyle.
In the age of digital disruption, the tortoise doesn’t beat the hare. Companies that quickly adopt new technologies are more likely to grow revenue, according to the “first-mover advantage” in a Harvard Business Review Analytic Services study. Meanwhile, companies that wait to embrace new ways to work risk losing talent, customers and a competitive advantage while others hop ahead.
Among the five generations in today’s multi-generational workforce, Millennials are arguably the most valuable resources companies have to keep up with the pace of change. Like any new generation, they’re here to shine a light on new ways to work we haven’t yet realized or thought possible.
Leveraging the Millennial voice, though, depends on how much companies engage, accommodate and consider the needs of Generation Y, including greater flexibility and collaboration. They want the walls of hierarchy lowered, new paths into leadership and faster routes for their big ideas.
These may seem like hefty undertakings, but really it starts with the basics: better tools.
Reaching Millennial workers through technology
The “Think Outside the Bun” generation sees clock-driven employees stuck in cubicles and thinks, “Why?” They aren’t demanding attention or Silicon Valley-style benefits. They’re expecting answers and ways we can do better. Here’s how you give them smarter ways to work:
- Centralise information with collaboration solutions. Millennials grew up with information on demand. If they want to know something, they search for it online and post questions to social media. Lifelong learners, they expect the same access to company information across teams, departments and branches through open office space, instant messaging, collaboration solutions and team workspaces.
- Enable them to work faster. Millennials want to work, communicate and collaborate as fast as they do everything else. That means they need the utmost user-friendly features—one-click access and no downloads—and seamless, simplified experiences on unified communication and collaboration (UC&C) platforms.
- Create a digital workplace with cloud-based technology. Millennials prefer to blur the lines between the professional and personal. Instead of an assigned desk to put a plant and a drawer to store snacks, they want spaces for collaborative encounters like ping pong tables, standing desks in the office to stay mobile and video conferencing to stay connected while working from home. They expect to move around to work in dynamic groups, roles and environments just as freely as they expect information to move in the name of productivity and innovation.
- Empower them to discover better technology. As consumers, Millennials tend to be early adopters of new technologies, and this generation brings that same mentality to work. They want a BYOD and BYOA policy in place so they can choose devices and applications for work, and they want to be able to try the latest and greatest technology by choosing software-as-a-service (SaaS) over on-premise software.
It’s not that Millennials want to work less and tweet more or that they feel entitled to a greater amount of freedom. Millennials want flexibility and mobility because they want work to be a joy. They care about teamwork and collaboration because they desire genuine work relationships and meaningful projects. They reject the “grind” and, instead, seek creative time and inspiring places to produce better results.
Sure, Millennials want everything to come easy, but why shouldn’t it? By outsourcing the details to software applications—tracking time, filtering email, memorising meeting information—they gain more time for bigger, more impactful tasks.
In return for providing the tools for greater sharing, transparency and teamwork, they will grow your company’s bank of collective knowledge, passionately solve problems together and get your organisation to innovation and disruption faster. With so many traits that are tailor-made for the future of work and the age of digital disruption, the Millennial mindset is a competitive advantage that many businesses are stifling.
The risks of stifling Millennials
Millennials are well on their way to becoming your biggest source of talent, an emerging new consumer market and your biggest competition. Those are compelling reasons not to overlook or dismiss this generation.
By 2020, not long from now, roughly 50% of the workforce will be Millennials, according to our infographic, “From Me to We.” If you’re not doling out what Millennials want, you’re not only failing to attract top talent from newer generations, but also you’re far less likely to engage and retain a generation that’s twice as likely to leave their companies in less than three years than older generations.
As digital natives, Millennials also create a new type of buyer, one that runs to the next big thing in the tech industry. By leveraging the Millennial voice within your workforce, you can reinvent business processes, enhance customer experiences and develop products that reach this new consumer demographic.
And when Millennial employees don’t receive leadership opportunities from you (about a quarter want a chance to prove their leadership ability in the workplace, according to “From Me to We”), they’ll find them on their own—as your competition. About 71% of Millennials would quit to work for themselves and 60% will do so within two years. Many startups and smaller companies are already led by a Millennial boss that has risen up out of an age of technology.
Where will your business be in five years when Millennials represent half of the workforce: still catching up or leading by example? Join PGi on The Future of Business Collaboration to better prepare your business for the future of work.
Mike O’Boyle is vice president, collaboration solutions EMEA and India, for PGi.
Main image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/geekly/