Millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – will soon outnumber Generation X workers and will form 50% of the global workforce by 2020. As more than one-fourth of millennial workers assume management positions, it’s fair to say that they will shape future workspaces and, based on the findings of the recent Dell and Intel Future Workforce Study, they already have solid ideas of what that workspace looks like – and the poor office dog does not feature.
This shift is forcing companies to relook how they do business and how they integrate technology into their operations if they want to attract and retain millennials, who get bored quickly and who value work-life balance and the latest technological solutions to help them get the job done.
The Future Workforce Study highlights three key ideas on how organisations can get it right:
1. Keep up with global technology trends
The study found that if businesses want to attract quality talent, they need to create smart workspaces that meet employees’ technological needs. Millennials and remote employees were found to be the most future ready when it came to smart technology, with 63% of those surveyed in South Africa expecting to work in a smart office in the next five years.
What is a smart office? It’s one that incorporates technologies like the Internet of Things, virtual and augmented reality to not only improve productivity and collaboration but also for smart office planning, like directing new employees to the nearest printer or maintaining office temperatures at optimum levels.
Millennials are always on the go but they identified slow and ‘glitchy’ technology as their biggest time wasters. While most respondents said technology within their companies was satisfactory, they also said it was not cutting edge and, in some cases, was not on par with the technology they use at home. Millennials expect technology to help them work smarter and faster, not slow them down.
Bottom line: If you want to attract and retain the best millennial workers, aim to replace workplace technology every three to four years. You’ll also save money as PCs older than four years have 25% higher repair costs than newer PCs.
2. Offer flexible/remote working arrangements for work/life balance
Given the fact that we are living in an ever increasing mobile environment, working remotely will continue to become more prevalent. Therefore, technology is a major deciding factor for many millennials when it comes to accepting job offers because it supports remote/flexible working arrangements. While two thirds of remote workers and half of office workers say their jobs are becoming part of their core identities, they still view their work and social lives as mostly separate – at 73% and 81%, respectively.
Millennials want to be able to work from anywhere, at times when they are most productive, which is not conducive to the ‘nine to five’ workday. For this to be a feasible option for employees, they require access to smart technology, as it has a big impact on their decision to either join or stay at a company. This has become apparent through the research, with 30% of workers saying that they will quit their jobs if the technology does not meet their standards and 80% saying that the technology available influences their decision on whether to take a new job.
In fact, 75% prefer high-tech perks over low-tech perks like a ping pong table, free food and an office dog, and most would choose working remotely over a promotion and a fun office culture. The biggest concerns with remote working, however, were the potential for work to encroach on their personal lives as well as not having a relationship with colleagues.
Bottom line: The future workforce will be mobile, supported by an array of digital technologies that enables employees to securely work and collaborate from any location, at any time. The ‘nine-to-five’ grind is slowly giving way to the best time for productivity, which is different for each individual and is further fuelled by a growing mobile and global workforce. Millennials are more adept at working remotely and have linked this to happiness at work, presenting an opportunity for businesses to empower and retain employees.
3. Use smart technology smartly
Smart workspaces embrace new technologies that make it easier for people to connect, collaborate and better accomplish workplace goals. The majority of South Africans are open to the idea of virtual and augmented reality in the workplace with the biggest selling points being training on new skills in realistic virtual environments, problem solving with 3D visualisation, presentation, collaboration and communication.
While millennials are more likely to use augmented and virtual reality products – with 60% seeing a potential use for augmented reality in the workplace – they are also wary of the potential of these technologies to lead to unemployment through job automation.
Bottom line: Allay fears of job redundancy by encouraging staff to use new technologies to innovate and come up with new products and ways of working. Fifty-nine percent of South African respondents – 72% of them remote workers – already believe that augmented and virtual reality will make their jobs easier, and they are already expecting a shift – 75% believe they will be working in a smart office that uses the Internet of Things in the next five years. Businesses can address the challenges of a changing workplace with the latest tools and technologies to gain a competitive advantage. The key is to focus on experiences that are enabled by these new technologies.
Technology is driving massive change within organisations today, affecting everything from how workers attract and retain the best people, to where and how they do their jobs, to how they communicate and collaborate. Those that use the latest technology will ensure the highest levels of productivity and be better able to compete effectively.