Millennials in the digital workplace

The self-sufficient millennials could be good news to IT departments, a new report says.

Some may call it the Me Generation -- a cohort used to instant gratification after being coddled by “helicopter parents.” But more important, the millennials are known as a generation raised with cell phones and social media at their fingertips. With more millennials entering the digital workplace, supervisors need to change how they manage and think about work, according to new research.

A new report based on surveys and interviews with 400 millennials (those born in the 1980s and later) and IT managers in the private sector examines how this younger generation uses technology and how it communicates and learns in the workplace.

When encountering technical problems at work, millennials tend to search for answers online – in forums or via search engines. They don’t turn to social networks to find solutions because “millennials aren’t broadcasting their problems to the world,” the report states.

The surveyed millennials also tend to seek out alternative avenues to solving problems, not “because they are oblivious or dismissive of company procedures” but because they want to be self-sufficient and are comfortable with search and social media.

These are good signs for IT departments, the report states, because use of in-house support materials could encourage millennials’ desire to learn about and solve minor technical problems.

The survey also found that many millennials telework, which means IT operations must be prepared to support all these devices 24/7 or “otherwise they risk losing valuable employee productivity.”

“Or — and this might be worse — IT risks leaving service and support in the hands of the user, who may add to the problem or go to resources outside the company for help,” the report states.

Forty percent of millennials use a mobile device for work on a weekly basis, and nearly one-third said they use a mobile device for work on a daily basis. Forty percent of those millennials who didn’t have a mobile device provided by work said they were interested in using their personal device to access company resources.

The report notes that while some of the stereotypes may be true (“little impatient and used to getting a lot of attention”), millennials “probably don’t compartmentalize work and life as much as their critics would suggest.”

To handle millennial communications expectations and problem-solving preferences, the report suggests the following:

  • Respond quickly and educate employees: Because of their impatience, a quick response via email, chat or text message could assure millennials that their tech problem is being taken care of.
  • Encourage self-sufficiency: The survey suggests that millennials aren’t spoiled, but rather they value self-sufficiency and want to help. “Searchable self-help solutions should be effective for simple problems,” the report states. 
  • Implement social media tools: Rather than being designed as tech support, tools such as Salesforce.com and Yammer are more about collaborative idea sharing or content and workflow management. “And unless they’re implemented with alerts and logging procedures, they may not actually result in fast responses or active 'conversations,’” the report notes.
  • Provide choices to Facebook and Twitter: To prevent too much company talk on public networks, "it makes sense to evaluate how private social networks could be implemented into a tech support scheme," the report states.

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