Between 1980 and 2000, about 81 million children were born. They are the “millennial” generation and not only have they grown up, they now constitute the largest generation in the workforce. By 2030, they’ll represent 75 percent of the workforce.
This matters because the rise of the millennials is now running headlong into another major corporate trend.
Nine Times an Hour
In the past few years, companies across all industries have rushed to use digital to deliver experiences that exceed their customers’ expectations. Today, these same companies are realising they need to think that way with their employees, too. On average they are checking their devices 9 times and so attracting and retaining top talent depends on delivering experiences that engage and delight them.
That is sometimes hard to do when it comes to the millennial generation. Sometimes referred to as “digital natives,” millennials have grown up in an environment surrounded by digital devices and apps. It’s not unusual to see toddlers as young as 18 months playing with smart phones and tablet computers.
The Blur Between Work and Home
In the workplace, however, a millennial’s experience with technology can be disappointing. One study found, for example, that 89 percent of millennials are looking for job flexibility—they would prefer choosing when and where they work rather than having a traditional nine-to-five job. So they want technology that works consistently across all contexts, personal and professional.
At many organisations, that just isn’t happening. I was recently listening to an employee in a high-street bank having a fairly serious gripe about her employer. As a tech-savvy person who uses technology at home as much as at work, she couldn’t believe her employer expected her to do her job with the archaic technology they’d issued. As a result, she was lugging two laptops around with her—a clunky old one from work and her own higher-powered machine—plus two phones, her personal device and her less smart work phone.
Another factor in the millennial experience has to do with the rising sophistication and convenience of the digital services most of us now use at home – from Uber to Airbnb, and from Amazon to Google maps. These platforms have left traditional workplace services trailing way behind, both in terms of power and user experience. Employees are increasingly noticing the gap, and asking why booking a work trip, collaborating with co-workers or planning a visit to another office isn’t as seamless as it is with their technology at home.
Signs of change
Forward-looking companies are already using technology to engage their talent. For example, consumer products giant Unilever has been rolling out choose-your-own device programmes to address the personal/professional tech gap. To more effectively align digital services with digital natives’ expectations, a retailer that Accenture has been working with is using gamification in its online learning programmes. The programme is engaging people in the learning experience and also reducing training costs.
Companies are finding that by empowering and energising their employees with new, more automated and more user-friendly digital services, they can “take things off the thinking list” for their people and free up their time for more productive, customer-facing activities. In the UK, this is all the more important given the well-publicised productivity gap that is opening between Britain and other G7 nations.
Companies can also improve customer service by improving the employee experience. If employees are dissatisfied about having to grapple with archaic workplace technology, they’re hardly going to be in the best state of mind to represent their company, or put it in the most favourable light with customers.
A millennial self-test
In light of the importance to millennials of having an effective technology experience, try asking yourself some questions. How does your employees’ experience of workplace technology measure up to their personal life? Does it help them work efficiently and productively with your customers? Or does it get in the way and cause frustration and undermine confidence on both sides?
Is your workplace technology helping your business attract and retain the people you need? Or do you need to invest more in your employees’ digital experience?
If there are problems in these areas, they can create further challenges as the war for talent heats up. To attract, retain and get the best out of today’s millennial generation (and other generations as well), employers need to provide a digital work experience on a par with people’s experiences in their private lives.
Find out more about the digital workforce of the future.