Digital Natives Don’t Like Working for Dinosaurs
The daughter of one of my friends asked me an interesting question recently. She said, “What was it like growing up when there wasn’t any technology?”
I laughed, but she was serious. I gave her plenty of examples – from lasers to landing on the moon – but it didn’t matter. In her mind, the technological revolution began with the invention of the World Wide Web.
That experience made me think, and I came to an astonishing conclusion. Forget about BC and AD. For a lot of younger people who make up the so-called “Gen Z” demographic (defined as those born between 1996 and 2011), everything comes down to two things – now, or the dark ages before smartphones and the ubiquitous availability of mobile data and WiFi.
Or, to put that into a business perspective – if your company isn’t embracing many of the most popular and productivity enhancing information technology tools, you could be in trouble. That’s because some of the brightest minds who are now in – or are about to enter – the global workforce may well regard your company as something of a dinosaur.
And, we all know what happened to those guys!
The Rise of the Millennials
To a certain extent it’s already happening. Not so much among Gen Z, the majority of which is still in schools. But certainly among the Millennials or their older counterparts, Gen Y.
That group might include you, because according to a Pew Research study in the U.S., last year Millennials overtook Baby Boomers in terms of numbers.
In any case, unlike the Boomers, Millennials grew up using information technology like laptops, tablets and smartphones. They take the ability to communicate easily and instantaneously – whether thumbing out an SMS, trading a tweet, firing off an email or following friends on Facebook – more or less for granted. And they expect the same things at work that they enjoy in their personal lives.
This has massive implications for businesses in general, and HR in particular.
According to a recent Digital Workplace Communications Survey by APPrise Mobile, “Millennials are demanding different working environments and new technologies and solutions to engage them, help them in their work and make their overall job experience better.”
That perspective can make hiring people problematic for any company that doesn’t look especially state-of-the-art when it comes to technology.
Even worse, Millennials are easily frustrated with legacy systems that lack speed or modern conveniences. And, if they aren’t happy with a business’ technology, they might stop using it. Or even quit.
That’s not just my opinion.
A “Mind the Gap” report published by Nimble Storage, revealed that 77 percent of Millennials felt that "sub-optimal application performance" affected their productivity and "personal best". Only half of the Baby Boomers surveyed felt the same way.
Half of the Millennial respondents also reported that they’d stopped using an application because it ran too slowly. I think that probably happens quite often, because 78 percent of the survey sample said they "occasionally or constantly experienced delays” when using business software.
Telling the Right Technology Story
Companies have recognized that “going digital,” can make a huge difference to an organization’s productivity. They are also beginning to realize that there is more to the equation than pure performance.
Implementing better, easier-to-use solutions pays tremendous dividends in terms of ensuring tighter, long-term employee engagement. The impact is felt across the board among all employees. But it is especially effective among Millennials who make up an increasing proportion of the global talent pool.
It can also help a lot with hiring. The type of technology a company is using tells a prospective employee a lot about the business, including whether it’s energetically evolving to meet the demands of a constantly changing marketplace or destined for extinction. And, these days, prospects are interviewing almost as carefully as those companies considering candidates.
That raises another issue. The HR team that meets a potential recruit needs to be equally au-fait with the technology. Not just knowledgeable about what the business is using, but capable of explaining how it works and the difference it makes to different roles within the business.
Otherwise, they might find themselves trying to answer a similar question to the one I was asked. “What’s it like to work in a company without any technology?”
Frederic Gillant joined ShoreTel in 2014 as vice president and managing director for Asia Pacific. Based in Singapore, Gillant leads ShoreTel’s go-to-market strategy across Asia Pacific managing the sales, channels, marketing and sales operations for the region. Other articles by Frederic are listed below:
- Making Interactions Magically Simple
- A Healthy Staff = A Healthy Business
- Bicycle Or Unicycle: Partners Make The Perfect Back Wheel In Today’s Communications Landscape
- Our New Office In Melbourne Is Officially Open!
- Beat The Bring-Your-Own-Network Blues: An Open Letter To The Co-Working Community
- Empowering the CIO: Innovation in Action
- Ensuring a Hollywood Ending
- Walk Before You Run