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Millennials and Technology: How to Deal with the Digital Generation in the Workplace?

Updated on February 21, 2016

In less than 10 years, the Gen Ys will take 75% of US jobs. Right now, they are the largest workforce on the market. What does it mean for businesses? How could you possibly engage millennials (the guys who never part with their smartphones) in the workplace and make them stay?

CEOs are in a bit of a situation.

Employees who belong to the Generation X have never had a proper chance to shine. First they had to adjust to Baby Boomers who value discipline and acknowledge managers’ authority. And now, all of a sudden, they face the millennial threat: in 2015, both Gen Xs and millennials had a 34% share of the US job market.

And companies – once again! – will have to revise their management strategies and corporate culture principles. And here’s why:

  • For Gen X, boss is an expert, a Mr. Know-it-All who can handle any problem and guide the company in the right direction. Millennials, on the contrary, believe their opinion matters and expect managers to be their coaches (and friends);
  • A typical Xer is an individualist by nature. He wants a comfortable office, a pretty assistant and the highest-paid job ever. Gen Xs live to work. Millennials need purpose and would rather have a smaller salary than do a job they hate. They want more freedom and time to pursue hobbies;
  • Most enterprises adopt linear organizational culture, and that’s fine with the Generation X (although the 2013 study by Ernst & Young revealed 38% of Xers would leave their job if it didn’t allow flexible working hours). Millennials also treasure flexibility, but despise the traditional 9-to-5 working day schedule. Being happy to work extra hours, they are by no means lazy. It’s just that millennials put the quality of their work first (and not the time they spend on a project).

As a result, the retention rates among millennials are extremely low. 44% of Gen Ys plan to leave their current jobs by 2017. If you want to replace an employee, it will cost you 20% of the person’s annual salary (recruiting and training don’t come cheap after all).

There’s a trick you can pull, though. Millennials and technology are inseparable. And that’s exactly what you can take advantage of.

How to win millennials with technology usage?

  • High-quality software and enterprise application integration. In 2015 Ultimate Software, an American company that specializes in HR solutions, conducted a comprehensive research among its existing and potential employees and came up with curious findings. When it comes to business software usage, employees of all generations value simplicity, speed and efficiency. Over 30% of millennial workers will abandon an online transaction if the program asks them to manually enter the same data more than once. Also, half of Gen Ys want to have business apps on tablets, smartphones and even wearables (in fact, 33% of all employees use at least 3 devices for work). Your software must run smoothly on any gadget. The sooner you find a reliable vendor to fix the soft issues, the better for your company;
  • Social media. 49% of millennials would rather lose their ID or wallet than their smartphone. An average young employee spends ¼ of his working day absorbed in social media and entertainment websites. 56% of Gen Ys won’t even consider working for a company with strict social media policies. Millennials do not draw the line between work and private life; what they need is a perfect blend. It doesn’t mean you should allow your employees to idle about. Instead, educate them on social media usage and make it clear you can (even if you never will!) monitor their Facebook profiles;
  • Multiple feedback channels. 79% of millennials have at least a Bachelor’s degree. They always want to grow and learn. And that’s why your employees won’t put up with annual performance reviews. Young people born on the edge of the 21st century dwell on social media platforms. If they upload a photo on Instagram, they get their first 50 likes within an hour. Same with work. Your millennial employee has accomplished an important task; why not tell him how well he’s done and give advice on how to do the job better next time? However, your feedback should be constructive. Be very specific on what you would like to change and measure improvements. Take the Twitter approach and provide your millennials with frequent, yet short instructions.

Companies like Google, DreamWorks and LinkedIn are obviously doing the right thing. They allow employees to devote 20% of their working time to side projects. They also teach their teams to present business ideas to CEOs. They provide free meals for employees and their families.

By the time a Gen Y turns 26, he’s already changed over 6 jobs. Why not let young employees grow within your company? It doesn’t necessarily mean promotion – after all, millennials often change industries. With a little training, a content manager will make a good digital marketer.

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