Millennials will Drive the Digital Transformation of the Workplace

on May 24, 2017
Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you ask ten different organizations what digital transformation is, you will likely get ten different answers. As is often the case, the answer depends on where each organization is in the process of integrating technology into their workflow. Many believe digital transformation means to get rid of paper, which of course is an oversimplification and not entirely the point. Others believe it is about using technology to do the same things we have always done. In other words, much of the focus is on digital and not so much on transformation.

Mobile was a Test Run

Let’s be honest, enterprise did not see mobile coming. Sure, they saw mobile phones but the impact smartphones would have on their IT department and business was never clearly understood until it was upon them. Smartphones were the start of employees’ empowerment. Carrier subsidies took away the cost barrier for the latest technology, making it accessible to the masses and those masses wanted to use that technology at work, not just at home.

“Bring Your Own Device” (BYOD) could have never been a trend when technology was so expensive only a few could afford it. We went from wanting to take home the PC we used at work to bring to work the smartphone we used at home. Smartphones were apps’ Trojan horse. Once we had our phones with us in the office, we wanted to continue to use the same applications and services we used at home. So, to BYOD we added BYOA (“Bring Your Own App”) as it was about the overall experience new mobile platforms such as iOS and Android were delivering.

Most organizations went through three phases: denial, resistance, and acceptance. Denial lasted a few years as devices came through the back door, then came a few years of resistance trying to impose mobile device management tools to limit what users could do, all in the name of security. Finally, we got acceptance with iOS now present in most Fortune 500 organizations recording a satisfaction rate of 96%.

The Rise of Millennials in the Workforce

What played to enterprise’s favor, at least a little, was the fact not everyone in their organizations, especially their C-suites, was quick to adopt these new devices and apps. That digital divide is going away faster and faster as new graduates get hired and younger managers move up the corporate ladders.

According to the U.S Census Bureau, millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest part of the American workforce back in 2015. Projections put millennials as comprising more than one of three adults in America by 2020 and 75% of the workforce by 2025.

It goes without saying millennials are very tech savvy. But the differences with baby boomers do not end there. Research has shown boomers identify their strengths as hardworking, optimistic, and used to navigating in organizations with large corporate hierarchies, rather than flat management structures and teamwork-based job roles. Millennials are quite drastically different: well educated, self-confident, multi-taskers who prefer to work in teams rather than as an individual and have a good work/life balance.

A recent study by Merrill Edge showed millennials have very different priorities in life compared to boomers. With the focus on personal achievements, millennials want to work at their dream job (42% vs. 23%) and travel the world (37% vs. 21%).

What is a Millennial’s Dream Job?

At Creative Strategies, we asked over 1,400 18 to 24 years old in the US what would make them not choose a company to work for after they were offered a job. While 35% were just happy to get a job, 46% would see not being able to work flexible hours as a dealbreaker. 21% would walk away from a job that did not let them use a smartphone for work in conjunction with their laptop or desktop, while another 17% could not tolerate an IT department that restricts what can be done with a smartphone. Finally, 14% could not be in a job that did not offer collaboration practices that fit their desired workflow, such as using apps like Google Docs or Slack, as well as video conference support.

Workflow is different for millennials. Aside from prioritizing collaboration, 65% said their preferred method to communicate is messaging apps. When it comes to collaboration, Google reigns supreme with 81% of US millennials regularly using Google Docs, 62% Google search, 59% Google Mail. Outside of Google, Apple iMessage scored the highest, with 57% of millennials saying they regularly rely on it, followed by Microsoft Word with 51%.

When it comes to devices, given a choice of laptop brands by their employer, there are only two brands that seem to matter: 62% would pick an Apple Mac and 14% would choose a Microsoft Surface Pro. Mobility is also no longer a “nice to have”. 34% of millennials say it is extremely important that the software, services and business processes they use for work are available on mobile as well as on a laptop. Finally, when coming into a job, 46% would prefer to be able to choose what laptop is given to them.

Digital Transformation to Attract and Retain

Transforming your business by embracing technology and the innovation technology empowers when it comes to business models and workflows, is necessary to attract talented employees. If that was not enough of a driver for companies, they should think about where the big spenders will come from. If 75% of the workforce by 2025 will be made up of millennials, where do you think the largest source of revenue will come from for businesses around the US? Where will the buying power be if not with millennials? Businesses will need to embrace digital transformation to deliver what their future customers will want.