November 21, 2014
Statistics from the US Bureau of Labor predict that by 2015, millennials will overtake the majority of the workforce; and, by 2030 this hyper-connected, tech-savvy generation will comprise 75% of the workforce.
Think about that. In a decade and a half, three-quarters of your co-workers will have been born between 1980 and 2000. At the same time, baby boomers are delaying retirement and working side-by-side with people young enough to be their children, creating a new dynamic in business. Will the imbalance tip the scale and completely change the workplace as we know it?
There's no doubt the generation of millennials is fundamentally different from generations past. According to Deloitte’s 2014 Millennial Survey, 63% of millennials believe the success of a business should be measured by more than just its financial performance, with a focus on improving society among the most important goals. And according to various expert reports millennials are the biggest and one of the most culturally diverse age groups in American history at about 80 million people. So they have influence.
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But I don't believe their influence is enough to create revolutionary changes to American businesses in the way we think, and I don't believe they will disrupt the workplace as much as everyone's predicting.
The reality is the workplace is a giant melting pot. Generation after generation of employees bring new technologies and ideas into the workplace, which means we create and adapt to the technology and policies already in place. Millennials are no exception to this previous ecosystem; they are not coming in and completely turning everything on its head. Instead, it is a give-and-take where the baby boomers adapt to millennials' new ways and millennials adapt to the systems in place.
Take mobility, for instance. It has altered and enhanced how employees work. But this new mode of communications did not happen abruptly and it did not create an immediate disruption of policies. Instead, its evolution happened in steps. Millennials will no doubt create and implement new and advanced technologies, but like generations past, these new technologies and business processes will arrive in stages, perhaps at an accelerated pace, but not overnight.
The only thing that remains consistent in the workplace across generations is change. As IT leaders, it's our responsibility to recognize the need for change, determine the best path to take, and communicate the vision to our staff. As part of this change, implementing new technology is not only to be expected but should be accepted as an ongoing process.
So how can you best manage this change of generations in the workplace? Know what makes them tick. Take a step back and look at the benefits your company offers this new workforce. For millennials, work is what they do, not where they go. Millennials sometimes view corporate structures as limiting factors, so create and provide meaningful opportunities for them as employees to do good -- whether it's through a donation match or volunteer days. While opportunities for service may not seem like the most pressing challenge for IT, the business leaders who successfully meet the needs of millennials will be better positioned to attract and retain these dynamic young workers.
The work world is always going to need to embrace the traits of new generations and millennials are just another example of this evolutionary change. Do not think of millennials as a disruption to the office. They don’t cause chaos in the workplace; rather they complement the trends already underway.
For example, millennials know first-hand the importance of using smartphones and mobile apps to get work done and bring a "mobile-first" mentality to the enterprise, whereas a team without millennials may have a bias to focus on other interfaces first. Accept and use the strengths of millennials to your company's advantage -- they are the most connected generation in history and companies can greatly benefit from putting their tech-savvy ways of thinking to use.
After all, before you know it the next generation will be entering the workplace with technology skills we've never dreamed of, and the evolutionary cycle will carry on.
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