Technology’s place in the workforce

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Millennials as a generation is used to instant results, and is seen as more impatient than any preceding generation. But employers need to adapt to the situation or lose tech-savvy talent.

The spotlight is on the Millennials for sure. As Baby Boomers have faded into retirement, and Gen X is gradually reaching retirement age, Millennials in the US, born between 1982 and 2000, are now at 83.1 million, and they represent one quarter of the nation’s population.

This creates an upheaval in the social arena, bringing changes in perspective never seen before. And it is all because of extensive use, even obsession, with technology. In fact, it is the millennial use of technology that makes them stand out from earlier generations. Millennials are considered the first “digital natives” who grew up with the Internet and with smartphones. Studies find every 7 of 8 Millennials are in possession of a smartphone. Surveys focused on millennial tech use, find they interact with their phones at least 45 times a day.

A Bank of America survey on Millennials found by studying 23,000 adults, that, on any given day, 39% of millennials engage more with their smartphones than with other human beings. Furthermore, almost half of the millennial population say they “couldn’t live” without their smartphones. As technology dominates most of their waking moments, 41% of millennials say they prefer electronic communication to personal contact with people, as at any given time, they connect and interact with multiple social media platforms. The numbers reflect how powerful the connection is. Instagram records over 80 million photographs uploaded every day. There are over 3.5 billion “likes” every day, and some 1.4 billion people, which is about 20% of the world’s population, publish details of their lives on Facebook. 

The cameras on smartphones enable Millennials to photograph any and everything in their lives and post them on social media for all to see. They are not particular about boundaries, and what used to be personal lives, have instantly melted into public life, destroying the privacy Gen X jealously safeguarded through the turbulence of advancing technology. In fact, Gen X could hardly have visualized the instantaneous exchange of information that is happening on social media.  Beyoncé announced her pregnancy to her 2 million Instagram followers through a photograph. 30 minutes later, 1.4 million people ‘liked’ the picture. As American author of Socialnomics, Erik Qualman said, “We don’t have a choice on whether we do social media, the question is how well we do it.”

From another vital perspective, Millennials, are the first generation to enter the work force with a strong grasp of technology, even more sophisticated than what is available in the workplace – instead of calling an IT hotline for support, they are the IT support and are able to troubleshoot technological problems. They are not enamored by companies that are lagging behind in utilizing technology in day-to-day work. Millennials happen to be the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of key business tools, as compared to their senior colleagues.

Brian Berns, CEO of Knoa Software, said, “The technology that Millennials have grown up with and used on a daily basis — through high school and college, relative to social media, e-commerce and then just their ability to run apps on a variety of devices — it sort of set the bar for them in terms of ease of use, intuitiveness and the ability to complete a task in one click. Then they get a job working at a Fortune 500 company and they’re put in front of these enterprise software systems, which are just the opposite of what they’re used to, and I think there’s a bit of a culture shock.”

Berns realizes, that unless companies grasp this situation and rectify the workplaces dilemmas Millennials face, they stand to lose out on tech-savvy professionals. The situation will become more urgent when Millennials make up 35% of the global workforce by 2020. One solution Berns suggests is using tracking technology to track their employees’ interactions in the workplace. As he explains, “At the end of the day, you don’t know you have problems unless you’re really monitoring that environment. That’s step one. Let’s collect data and understand where the challenges are.”

When employers understand where employees are struggling, or see what employees find unpleasant in a job, they could change things to make the workplace a pleasanter one which is able to retain quality staff. As leadership trainer, Farshad Asl, said, “Millennials don’t want to be managed, they like to be led, coached and mentored. This generation is on fire and ready to go. Are you ready to change the world?”

Berns looks at the big picture in perspective, and also finds generational differences. He says, “If you have people who have been in the workforce for 30 years, they remember green screens and mainframe access. Millennials, they’ve grown up with mobile devices and the devices have become an appendage essentially. They’ve grown up in an environment where it’s just one click to buy anything or look up anything or connect with anybody. So, they have less tolerance, understandably so.”

As thought leader and consultant for Millennials, Crystal Kadakia, said, “Instead of complaining about adapting for millennials, it’s imperative for leaders and managers to acknowledge the role of millennial behavior as an indication of the needs of the modern workplace to attract, leverage, and retain modern talent.” 

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