How millennials are shaping the future of work

Millennials are a driving force in the future of the workplace, pushing companies to modernize in order to keep up with the competition.

millennials are shaping the future of work
Credit: SAS

Technology is moving the workplace along at lightning speed and not all businesses are ready to catch up. But that modernization is key to the future of work, according to a recent study commissioned by Dell and Intel.

Penn Schoen Berland (PSB) conducted 3,801 online interviews earlier this year, speaking with individuals working in nine different markets, including education, government, financial services, healthcare, manufacturing, media, and entertainment and retail. They focused on the future of work and what these workers expect from their employers moving forward. "Not only is technology impacting the future office, it's redefining the office and greatly influencing the way we all currently work," says Kelli Hodges, global manager, Mobility at Dell.

The study found that tech lies at the heart of the "future of work," but also discovered that there are some key differences -- and similarities -- between what millennials and those over 35 want from their employers.

All your employees want the latest tech

If your company is running on outdated technology -- it might be time to consider an upgrade. According to the research, workers are "generally happy in their jobs," but are frustrated dealing with analog equipment in the workplace -- everything from desktop computers to landlines. Workers of all ages are accustomed to using smartphones, tablets, wearables and apps to make their personal lives easier -- and they want the same from the technology provided at work.

David Politis, CEO and founder of BetterCloud says that the latest technology is important in hiring millennial workers (millennials are the largest living generation, which makes them one of the keys to a successful organization). Businesses need to keep up with the latest technology, he says, not just to be able to retain this new generation of workers, but to stay competitive.

"The next generation of workers wants a high-tech workplace, so the companies seeking the best employees need to offer the best technology. Millennials have seen the impact of technology their whole lives and moving into a work environment without technological benefits feels like a step back from how they are used to working and communicating at school and in their personal lives," he says.

The study also reveals a not-too-far-off future where the global workforce becomes more mobile, productive and capable as a result of technology. Improved technology, once businesses finally adopt it, will help increase productivity, making it easier for workers to do their jobs. The findings also reveal a future where employees will become more capable, meaning they will actually know how to use new technology -- such as AI. In fact, 62 percent of respondents said they felt their job could be made easier with the help of artificial intelligence.

While millennials were the most likely to say they would use augmented or virtual reality software and that they want the latest tech at work, more people in this age group also expect robots will someday take their jobs. Of those polled, 35 percent of millennials expressed a concern that a robot will take their job, while only 28 percent of non-millennials felt the same.

Millennials are pushing change

If you want modern, find where the millennials work -- at least, that's what the research suggests. The study found that the workplace is evolving, with 57 percent of respondents saying they expect smart offices to arrive within the next five years but that there's a disparity in the market when it comes to how fast businesses are changing.

"Investing in the latest technologies isn't only becoming a way to improve office productivity, it's becoming a crucial part in the fight for talent. And it's an area where businesses can set themselves apart," says Hodges.

But millennials are the ones leading the charge, the study notes, pointing to this generation as a key driver in the "introduction and adoption of new technology." The study found that, of all age groups, millennials were the most likely to quit a job over tech; 42 percent stated they would leave a company due to "substandard technology." To compare, only 25 percent of those over age 35 agreed. Similarly, 82 percent of those under age 35 said that workplace tech would influence their choice when taking a new job, while only 67 percent of those over age 35 said the same.

"What the study truly illuminated is that if employers don't consider the demands and preference of this generation, they will risk losing strong talent and remaining competitive," says Hodges.

Millennials embrace collaboration

Employees still like meeting face-to-face, with 57 percent of respondents saying they prefer this type of communication. But 51 percent also said that with better communications technologies and the capability to work remotely will bring about the end of face-to-face communication.

The study found that 79 percent of millennials -- compared with 67 percent of nonmillennials -- said they felt the workplace is becoming more collaborative, with 36 percent also saying remote work allows for a healthier work-life balance, while also rendering face-to-face contact obsolete.

"Communication is no longer tied to the traditional face-to-face meeting; instead, with the appropriate solutions, communications have turned to many forms that can be equally as productive, if not more," says Hodges. She also notes that with new communication tools comes increased expectations around security. But that's not an excuse for businesses to ignore implementing the latest communication tools - otherwise "end users will find their own ways of implementing communication tools."

Ditch the perks

There's a stereotype of millennial workers that suggests they want ping pong tables, free snacks and the option to bring their dog into work. But the study found those were actually the perks millennials were least excited about. Rather, millennials want high-tech perks, with 63 percent of those aged 18 to 34 citing things like the internet of things, augmented and virtual reality, and AI-assisted technology as the biggest motivators at work.

But Politis says that, in his experience, it's best to find the right balance between the high-tech perks and low-tech perks. He says that the low-tech perks ultimately won't harm an organization, but that they have to be balanced out with cutting-edge technology. The two "don't have to be mutually exclusive," but offering the right amount of both will make for happier employees and a fun, exciting culture.

"The major thing businesses should take away from the study is that it's vital to invest in the technology, which allows your employees to work the way they want, where they want," says Hodges.

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