Executive agenda: Prepare for the rise of millennials in the workforce

With predictions that in just five years, almost half of all employees will be millennials - those who have grown up with the internet - businesses are about to be challenged to start accommodating some very different approaches to work and technology.

"The millennials grew up in a connected world, and therefore expect to be mobile and able to work from anywhere at anytime from a variety of devices, whether that’s a desktop computer, a laptop, an iPad or a smartphone," says Michael Russell, CEO and founder of IT services company Origin.

He lists the top five things organisations need to do to prepare for this group in the workplace:

One: Put technological flexibility at the top of the list.

While salary and workplace benefits such as annual leave or insurance perks may have previously been factors that attracted quality staff, millennials may be looking for very different things in their employment. Recent studies have shown a third of millennials put more value on social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility than on salary, which means the kind of technological flexibility a company offers in the future may be more important than the remuneration package.

Two: Find ways for your team to communicate other than email or phone.

Studies show that millennials are less likely to listen to voicemail messages, and expect to be able to use online social collaboration tools to communicate with colleagues. That may mean you need to set up text capabilities across several linked devices, and installing apps or software that allows colleagues to message each other easily online while working. Apps like Pidgin or Yammer that allow staff to chat and share content instantly without having to pick up the phone are the kinds of systems that will keep millennials happy and enable them to do their best work.

There needs to be a focus from managers on creating seamless workflows across time, devices and channels, and that does require constant reassessment of the tools and systems that will suit everyone’s style. Michael Russell, Origin

Three: Invest in multiple devices.

Millennials like to have the flexibility to work from wherever suits, and access content from multiple devices such as iPads and smartphones, which means low-cost laptops that store data on the cloud will suit them better than a full desktop set-up that ties them to a certain location.

It’s believed 1.3 billion workers are now mobile, which presents leaders with the challenge to manage global teams in real time. It may mean something as simple as ensuring staff can print direct to the office printer via their smartphone, and adopting mobile apps into work processes. An example would be giving employees the option to track time spent on projects on their phone so they can log tasks performed outside of standard business hours.

Four: Ensure networks and cloud-based storage systems are secure.

The risk in making changes such as allowing access to databases and company information from multiple locations and devices is security, and many companies will need to undergo a serious assessment of theirs while undertaking these kinds of changes.

Kiwi companies will need to ensure any cloud-based storage is safe and secure at all times, and staff will need to be educated on best practice when it comes to access from multiple devices to ensure your data is protected at all times.

Five: Think about what different roles need to succeed.

It’s key to ensure the technology used in each role evolves with the changes that naturally come about as the workplace demographic changes, and mobility becomes increasingly important. In many companies, executives need to be able to hot desk and work around the building as they move between meetings, while others have to be supplied with devices such as tablets that allow for mobility when needed, as well as a base to work from the rest of the time.

“No matter what business you operate in, the challenges of a mobile workforce will most likely impact on you in some way over the next five years,” says Russell.

“Ultimately there needs to be a focus from managers on creating seamless workflows across time, devices and channels, and that does require constant reassessment of the tools and systems that will suit everyone’s style. However, making these changes will enable people of all generations to do the very best job they can at all times - which is a benefit every company will be able to appreciate.”

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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