As millennials make up more and more of today’s workforce, many businesses are realizing their traditional methods of getting work done don’t cut it anymore.
According to a Pew Research Center analysis, the millennial generation – those born between 1982 and 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau – represents 35 percent of today’s workers. That’s 56 million people, compared with 53 million Generation X workers and just 41 million baby boomers. And with its youngest members still in college, the impact of the largest generation working today has yet to be fully realized. What many organizations do realize, however, is that keeping millennial workers engaged means taking a fresh look at their technology.
Today’s workers want tools that are as sleek as the newest iPhone and as intuitive as their favorite app to complete their work. But while millennials are the first generation of digital natives, these expectations are not unique to your youngest workers – and they’re not the ones who created this technology-driven society. The integration of tech in all aspects of our personal and professional lives is the doing of Generation X and the baby boomers. We built it, the millennials grew up with it, and we all have to adapt to it.
For businesses used to complex enterprise software installations and paper files, these evolving worker expectations can be a serious adjustment. But to attract the best talent and boost engagement companywide, many businesses need to shift their tech perspective. They must see technology advancements not as the enemy brought on by a younger generation, but as a necessary evolution that pays dividends in business productivity as well as employee satisfaction.
Evolving technology, evolving expectations
Once upon a time, our ancestors hunted for their dinner; today, we can summon dinner to our doorsteps with a few swipes of our phone. But while this level of ease is par for the course in our personal lives, technology has been slow to adapt in many workplaces, with businesses facing these key challenges:
- Expensive customization. Many businesses believe they need to customize platforms to their unique needs, resulting in time and cost-intensive implementations. Organizations pour money into developing and installing these solutions, resulting in a global technology consulting market worth approximately $50 billion. Once installed, these systems often require weeks of training to get employees up to speed. Employees of all generations are seeing that as anything but speedy, and both workers and managers are losing patience altogether for lengthy training cycles.
- Clunky interfaces. Complex legacy software solutions are far from intuitive or even informative, frustrating workers as they struggle to learn these tools and their key job processes. For workers accustomed to thoughtful user-experience design, and apps that sync seamlessly with the cloud and across devices, on-the-job technology needs to be equally seamless, providing as-it-happens guidance to help workers navigate easily around the platform. Technology also needs to play an enabling role in worker education, helping to avoid the hassle and expense of in-person training sessions and prevent knowledge loss in skilled trades like construction and manufacturing as experienced workers step into retirement.
- Manual processes. If your business still uses paper files for accounting, project management or other daily tasks, you’re in good company. One survey found that 84 percent of small businesses rely on some kind of manual process every day. Even for organizations that have established technology-based systems, the proliferation of remote workers and devices can make it difficult for many managers and employees to stay on the same page over what’s getting done when, how and by whom.
Despite these ongoing challenges, signs of a shifting approach to technology are happening across the marketplace. More businesses are turning to cloud-based tools to improve access across the workplace, and out-of-the-box platforms are gaining favor over hosted enterprise systems for their intuitive, user-friendly features. For example, a platform like QuickBooks allows users to simply click a button to pay an invoice, compared with legacy accounting systems that might require users to actually write a check and log it within the platform. It’s no surprise employees young and old embrace the ease of use systems like QuickBooks offer. From fax machines to messaging apps, technology has always aimed to make the workplace more productive, and millennials have doubled down on that idea.
Finding success through tech
To entice the best workers and enable those workers to perform at their peak, businesses need to meet the expectations of today’s digital workforce. That begins with building a tech stack that enables communication, collaboration and productivity to help workers get the job done. When investing in or upgrading your own business tools, consider these features:
- Easy to get started. Despite what some consultants may tell you, most businesses can meet daily business needs like accounting, customer relationship management or workflow management without the time and expense of a lengthy software customization project. Look for solutions that provide a solid framework while accommodating unique business specifications, such as workflow management tools that allow you to upload your company’s building floorplan to pinpoint specific tasks.
- Easy to use. Why require two keystrokes when just one will do? Regardless of the age of your workers, business tools should be as intuitive to a 25-year-old as to a 75-year-old, helping to maximize productive hours. In an age of learning via YouTube videos, the right solution can also help bypass classroom training by teaching employees as they go, whether they’re installing an air-conditioning compressor or programming a picking robot.
- Easy to communicate. Millennials have earned the reputation for being constantly plugged in, but research shows that Gen Xers are actually more digitally connected. Whether it’s via text or chat, using familiar technology to communicate helps keep people organized and prevents tasks from slipping through the cracks. Easy access to this communication is paramount. In-app technology can help meet that need, connecting workers across multiple business and remote locations while also helping to speed up installation and enable real-time software upgrades.
While millennials may be prompting a sea change in the way we view technology in the workplace, this generation is merely bringing to light a revolution that began long before them. By using changing employee demographics as an opportunity to modernize, businesses can enhance employee engagement and performance across the workplace.
About Greg White: Curo CEO Greg White is passionate about Curo’s mission to connect the digital workforce and eliminate workplace communication chaos. In his 20-year career, Greg has guided companies dedicated to improving the operational performance for professionals both in the office and the field. Contact Greg at firstname.lastname@example.org and Curo at www.curoglobal.com.