Leveraging Millennials for Business Productivity
There are nearly 80M Millennials in the U.S. As of 2015, approximately 40% of the workforce is comprised of Millennials, and by 2020 that number will become nearly 50%…half of all U.S. workers. This is the greatest population of any generation within a workforce at one time. And what is of particular interest is the Millennials have a working style all their own.
While the more traditionally inclined working environment has struggled to integrate Millennials, those organizations that have taken it upon themselves to understand how Millennials think and work have gleaned extreme rewards from the productivity of this group. Traditional environments and management that was leading the way when this generation entered the workforce about a decade ago mostly found themselves in constant confrontation…from the schedule Millennials tend to keep, to their communication style, to technology requirements, to business information being in multiple environments. It has been major frustration for a traditional management paradigm trying to get “these kids” to comply with the way the working world (aka “reality”) works. Let’s explore.
Initially Millennials were seen as much too casual and lax, arriving to work later than the traditional workforce and leaving earlier. This was seen as quite a shortened workday. While in reality, Millennials tend to work longer hours than their predecessors, but typically not from within the standard office environment. For Millennials, their “office” could be anywhere and in fact, being a far more collaborative group, it often becomes a location or environment where they can work together, easily share ideas, and gather a larger mindset from which to make a decision and move forward. This could be a coffee shop, a breakroom, an online forum, or some combination thereof (likely the combo). Millennials like to gather information and share ideas, then make a decision and act on it. Growing up in a rapidly changing world, Millennials tend to do most things in real time and move much more quickly than previous generations, with increased productivity, assuming they have the tools to work with. (For more tips on leveraging the value Millennials bring to the workforces, see How to Communicate with Millennials at Work – 23 Surefire Tips to Retire the Stereotypes, Tim Eisenhauer, Axero.)
This new rapid schedule has taken older generations time to get used to. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers for example, are far more likely to “do work at work” and leave it there. Their days may seem longer, but they are far less likely to take calls from home or while they are out of the office; or come in contact with something that applies to work while online in the evening, or think of a creative idea that could impact a project at work and immediately hop online, into the collaboration forum (or email if no forum…or more likely, they create the forum themselves and invite their Millennial co-workers to make it easier) to contribute their thoughts and ideas, in hopes of already having feedback and comments when they wake up in the morning to check it. Generation Xers and Baby Boomers are slower to embrace technology and tend to hold on to “old school” ways, which can often take more time and not embrace today’s relevance or competitive edge.
Communication is a world of different with the Millennial worker (for more see Forbes, How Millennials Work Differently From Everyone Else). Having grown up with MySpace, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, IM/chat, text, Skype, online gaming, etc., etc…and moved through and past many of these environments at a rapid pace, there is one thing for sure—Millennials are in constant communication, though rarely face to face; their communication is brief, often abbreviated which can be a whole language unto itself, and direct (thank you to the world of 160 character text limitations followed by Twitter at only 140). Communication is also sprinkled with humor and this is considered a normal and appropriate, even preferred/required, method of communication (i.e., emoticons are expected expressions to maintain a “politeness” to the conversation). Millennials have also been taught to question everything, contribute, apply critical thinking, and make decisions. They are not afraid to question authority. Millennials live in a world where they have dozens of communications taking place in several environments at the same time. All of these communication elements combined often hit a traditional worker or manager like a slap in the face. The traditional worker is not used to being questioned (perhaps confronted in their mind), or to such brief and direct communication which they may see as insulting or intimidating, or getting a text about work from a co-worker or someone who reports to them, which they may see as too forward or informal for a work exchange.
All of this makes Millennials more prone to written communication, albeit brief, which makes them quick and early adopters of the latest technology in order to keep pace. In the Millennial world, new = faster and better. However, they also enjoy the ability to “save context” and not lose anything in the translation by capturing their communications and collaboration for future reference. For this high-energy, globally connected, nearing majority of the workforce, if the organization does not provide the technology forum for Millennials to operate most productively and efficiently, they will create it themselves. Technology is seen as an essential work tool and it is not something they will wait for. They use the tools on a daily basis, and there are a plethora of free (if not secure) environments available, so if not provided to and for them, Millennials will leverage the latest and greatest tools available on the marketplace in order to get the job done. (For more on Millennials and Technology, See How to Communicate to Millennials with Technology, LinkedIn Pulse, Andrew Hoffman, April 2015).
So now that we have begun to paint the picture to gain more understanding of how Millennials work and communicate, how do we take advantage of these many benefits, and harness the enormous energy and abilities of this group? It is a critical time to address this if your organization has not already done so. Millennials are now getting into their 30s, arguably at their most rapidly advancing and money making years, at the point where they will be in management positions, responsible for guiding and developing the growth of the organization. Organizations who do not figure this out and embrace “new” methods of working will most certainly be left behind as Millennials become the majority of the working population and more traditional workers step back and begin to retire. Taking a look at the most rapidly growing companies over the past decade (through some tough recession times) will give you a good look at many organizations that have embraced Millennial workstyles and are already reaping the benefits.
One thing is for certain with Millennials, the absolute key is technology. Digital technology is not something optional to the Millennial worker, it is essential, in fact there really is no abilit
y to communicate or work without it. The smartphone is the center of their universe. They are connected 24/7/365, from everywhere around the globe. They prefer to operate in real-time and this is how they do so. Providing this technology is essential to growing your business, gaining competitive advantage, and retaining sales and customer information within your environment. (For more, See Maximizing Millennials in the Workplace, UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School.)
Consider the alternative, your organization does *not* provide the technology tools and Millennial workers take their “conversation” and their work product outside the working environment. Multiple problems here. First, this critical business intelligence is now lost. It is not preserved within your environment for record, learning, or any future use, and it may not be secure within the environment it is located. Whether a cyber security issue, branding, copyright, business intel, or whatever the case may be, it is not secure if it is outside the environment your organization controls. However, a potentially even greater concern is your organization will likely find itself with rapid turnover and unable to retain employees. Or the employees it does retain are an aging workforce and not maintaining the competitive edge and growth of more adaptive organizations. This is an absolute consequence of not retaining Millennials within your organization when this group will very quickly represent more than half of the workforce. So please, stop thinking it won’t happen or it’s a long way off…Millennials WILL BE 50% of the workforce by 2020, and that’s not very far away—your five year plan should be addressing it! “This is not about whether you want to upgrade, or have the latest and greatest technology…it’s about survival and growth.” (How to Communicate to Millennials with Technology, LinkedIn Pulse, Andrew Hoffman, April 2015.)
Ok, so you understand and accept the repercussions, where do you start? A fabulous place to start for any and all organizations is with a unified communications solution. This has huge merit from so many different perspectives. From the dying of landlines (also a trend Millennials latch on to, nearly NO Millennials have or will have landlines) which will force organizations to upgrade their communications systems within the next five years or so, to the ability to integrate various business systems into one unified business process.
A unified communications (UC) solution moves your communications to the cloud, reducing CapEx, but even more importantly for the Millennial generation, ensuring your workforce is on the latest and greatest technology at ALL TIMES. No costly upgrades, no waiting for the latest and greatest thing. It’s automatically there when you are in the cloud, as soon as it’s released. This is a requirement for Millennials.
Further, a UC solution combines all the components essential to how Millennials work, in one environment, keeping your business intelligence safe, secure, and available. Remember those components discussed above. Millennials prefer digital communication…text/IM/chat, collaborative environments, sharing ideas, direct and immediate, the smartphone is the center of their universe…With a UC solution, all of this is available from one single interface, whether a mobile phone, a deskphone (most Millennials won’t have them, but this bridges the gap between Millennial and traditional workers, all within one system, a fabulous bridge!), a computer or a tablet. The same business presence is maintained across all devices, along with single-button access to all the essential tools of the Millennial world, protecting your business identity. Further, with the click of a single button within the same app, team members can be sharing a document or desktop, collaborating with co-workers; if more communication is needed, they can turn the session into an immediate videoconference. This communication hub is integrated with all the familiar Millennial tools, such as social media, as well as the more “traditional” email and CRM solutions—another opportunity to bridge the gap and truly leverage your entire team! Having customer information within the CRM will make those GenXers happy, and having it automated from the communication hub will be a sure win for the Millennials. Most importantly, having it integrated will deliver all the contextual information for the project or task at hand to one communication hub interface, with the touch of a single button. Maximum benefit is gleaned when the technologies are used together and they are no longer thought of, or treated as, separate platforms. Endless possibilities arise when the technologies are used together in synergy.
OneCloud Networks helps organizations gain competitive advantage by upgrading their communications solution to include voice, as well as harness the power of the full UC hub. As a BroadSoft service provider, OCN is thrilled to offer the expanded UC One application within our InfusiONE solution. BroadSoft’s latest development, dubbed Project Tempo, expands the hub to provide a fully integrated, contextual-based solution to put everything Millennials want and need, right at their fingertips, and deliver the very latest technology, in the cloud, all the time! OneCloud Networks offers free communication assessments to help organizations identify where their business intel really lies and ensure they are leveraging the full power of their team resources.