Millennials

Millennials Are Just Like You Were 20 Years Ago

Companies are far better off adapting to the reasonable expectations younger workers have about technology and communication practices.
Millennials Are Just Like You Were 20 Years Ago
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By 2020, nearly half (46 percent) of all U.S. workers will be millennials.

Rather than blaming helicopter parents for millennials’ entitlement, and only seeing young people as a negative presence in the workplace, employers need to embrace them. Eighty-three percent of millennials worldwide, consider themselves on the cutting edge of technology. Companies should utilize this knowledge by utilizing their millennial employees for all their digital needs.

Think of it this way. When you joined the workforce fresh out of college 20 years ago (plus or minus a few years or decades), you were likely dumbfounded by the amount of archaic technology still in use. Sapho’s Co-Founder and CTO Peter Yared, for example, joined the workforce in the early '90s. He was baffled that his co-workers were still using typewriters at work when he had been using a computer throughout college.

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Yared's story is not that different from twenty-somethings today. Millennials wish they could complete tasks -- such as approving expense reports on their smart phones and looking up a co-worker on a mobile directory -- but instead they have to search through an antiquated human resource information system (HRIS) only available on a PC. Today, no one would argue these systems are a vastly better choice, but in the early 90s, some employees may have seen computers as newfangled, unproven or simply a bother to implement and learn how to use.

The same conflict is happening in workplaces today. Millennial workers today are used cutting-edge technology as that is what they used in college and now use in their personal lives. They have little patience for old, slow-moving systems at work. College kids text, Instagram, Facebook, tweet and swipe right (or left…which is it?) but they don’t use email nearly as often as older workers. They are blown away by the email handcuffs that exist in the enterprise. Instead, they want important information pushed to them in real time. They want to “like” and “share” insights they learn about and move on to the next task. Quick, efficient, accessible are the keys to keeping their attention.

Joining a new company only to revert to older ways isn’t ideal for anyone. It creates a clash between old companies and new workers that could be solved with more efficient business software. When I was at Forrester, I worked with a global 10 company that was struggling with new graduates entering the workforce and quitting within three months. Technology was cited as the main problem. I was asked by the human resources team to help find a technology solution they could present to IT to ensure millennial employee retention.

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I learned some key things when it comes to retaining millennial employees and ensuring old tech isn’t the reason they are leaving. One key piece is letting them use their preferred device (phone and laptop), by leveraging technologies that secure the apps and data but allows them to access work-related materials from wherever they are. When they can work in their preferred environment and can access the social websites, consumer-simple apps or anything else they need, workplace happiness and retention improves. No one wants to carry around two cell phones, use a four-year-old laptop, have Facebook blocked and feel controlled but not trusted by their employer.

Numerous studies show that today’s young adults are really not into the ladder-climbing rules and life-sucking schedules of their parents' careers. Whether it’s unlimited vacation, a work-from-home policy, cold brew on tap or BYOD, millennials are the future of our workplace and we need to cater to their expectations. This can start small: their mobile devices. If we want to engage millennials and help them complete tasks efficiently, then the answer is to provide them simple, actionable, single-purpose apps wherever they are, be it their own mobile device or computer or through an app they are using, such as Slack or Facebook.

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Twenty years from now, someone will enter the workforce and be blown away by the “old folks” still using iPhones, computers with built in keyboards and standing desks. Things change inside and outside of the workplace that affect today’s new-age worker, and it’ll happen again in another 20 years, so we need to be ready to respond and adapt. For today, it is about embracing our new co-workers and thanking them for keeping us all ahead of the technology curve.