Millennials: A Generation of Digital Natives stretch IT Services to their limits


If someone were to perform a literary review of all the blogs and articles written about millennials, they would probably form three conclusions – although they’re great with technology, they’re difficult to manage and are a mystery to many business managers. Of course, sweeping generalisations about an entire generation are often far from the truth.

A Generation reared by radical technological change

Since the first industrial revolution, no generation has experienced as many large technological changes as Millennials. Although dates vary, the consensus is that anyone born in the early 1980s belongs to this generation. So to look at some fundamental technological shifts during this period will give us an idea of the pace of change. In no particular order the following technologies jump out as a source of change for the way humans work, play and communicate:

  • The internet
  • E-mail (Although around long before 1980, it’s popularity increased enormously during the period. Incidentally, 1978 saw the first recognised spam email. So Millennials are also a generation that can’t remember a time when their inboxes weren’t full of promises of weight loss, risk-free wealth generation schemes or erm bodily enlargement procedures.)
  • Mobile phone to smartphone
  • GPS (I knew someone who had a proper map once. It didn’t actively update, so they got lost a lot)
    • Social Media
  • Open Knowledge and Information sources – from Wikipedia to Wikileaks
  • On demand – Television, Film and Music streaming sites

The point here is that this generation grew up in a world where the pace of change has increased year on year. And I haven’t even mentioned some of the cool technologies and tools just around the corner like AI and Robots.

So if our literary review of all-things-millennial were to dig a little deeper, it’s not surprising to see most commentators discussing the role of technology in the workplace.

Millennials demand a lot from Enterprise Technology

To the distress of some organisations, this generation is particularly demanding of enterprise technology. It’s not hard to see why. For the most part, consumer technology is an essential component of the modern lifestyle – from smartphones to social media to on-demand tv and taxis. Access to these tools and technologies build expectations that most enterprises struggle to meet.

Expectations like omnichannel support structures and intuitive devices and applications are readily met in the consumer market by businesses trying to compete for this demanding groups affections. But the enterprise hasn’t concerned itself with the same market pressures. But it might have to start…

Consumer-grade technology and personalised service

If there’s a broad statement – supported by data – that can be applied to Millennials, it’s that they’re far more mobile than preceding generations. The numbers vary considerably, although some sources suggest the average tenure of a millennial is half that of the current workforce average at between two and three years. Others estimate that this generation could have 20 job changes in their working lifetime – the new workforce is mobile and certainly not afraid to change employers.

Crucially, a mobile workforce mimics the dynamic we can see in the consumer marketplace – choice. Smartphone manufacturers hope customers will choose their device because it offers something more than competing models – improved UI, a better camera, or just a better price. This dynamic can kick in anywhere that individuals are free to choose.

The same principle will undoubtedly have an impact on a person’s choice of employer. Of course, the decision is somewhat more complicated than regular purchases, but choice and experience can be powerful forces. For example, if an individual has worked in a business that fulfilled all their technological needs and then moved to one that offered relatively little, they may begin to regret their choice. Indeed, some anecdotal evidence suggests that Millennials have left jobs that were well paid but poorly equipped for ones with better technology but a lesser salary.

We can see a softer example of this dynamic already at play when employees choose to work from their own consumer-grade devices – perhaps because they perform better than standard equipment. Historically, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) has been problematic for organisations desperate to mitigate security and governance risks, but this hasn’t stymied demand. Employees are readily making the economic trade-off – “I will risk breaking the rules if it makes me more productive.” Which isn’t an enormous leap from “I will risk moving to another employer if I can be more productive.”

In this increasingly competitive labour market, businesses need to invest in becoming more attractive to potential employees.

Is investing in hiring Millennials enough?

Encouragingly, recent research conducted by HfS and KPMG suggests some modern businesses are keen to invest in hiring millennials. Investment sorely needed in an already competitive market, but attracting talent is only half the battle, keeping them will be the biggest struggle.

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As the report astutely points out, a third of today’s workforce is built up from this generation and, of course, that percentage is increasing. As they take a greater labour share, hiring is likely to become less challenging; the hard part will be keeping them from utilising their increased mobility to find a more attractive employer.

For buyers of IT services this augers a stark warning – if services don’t meet the expectations of the new workforce, attracting talent will be tough, retaining it will be impossible.

Luckily, most suppliers are busily building services and solutions that satisfy this consumer-grade demand. For a generation that prefers to work on their own devices, innovative Enterprise Mobility Management solutions are taking form. To meet demand for intuitive applications, customer centric application development and management services are available.

Procuring services has always been a tough job. But it’s now going to become even harder as the most demanding workforce the modern business landscape has ever seen begins to exercise it’s freedom of choice.

Bottom Line: Buyers need to anticipate the expectations of the Millennial labour force, and find a supplier that meets its requirements.

Posted in : IT Outsourcing / IT Services



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