The Millennials arrival and the evolution of the Modern Workplace is all about discussing the demographic change happening in the workplace, and how Millennials are taking over and shaping the future worker. They are everywhere and for every organization that is trying to retain and attract talent, that talent most likely is a millennial. This changes every thing, and calls for a shift in the way we think of the modern workplace to fit their expectations.
[This session is available on YouTube here]
Hi, my name is Ammar Hasayen, and one of my responsibilities recently was to help big international organizations to implement the modern workplace or digital workplace, as part of big a digital transformation team. I even had the chance once to work in a big enterprise where I had to convince the management to implement a modern workplace and spend money, time and resources doing that.
I learned many things during this journey, and I thought it would be great if I can share my experience, as I know for sure, many organizations are struggling with their modern workplace implementation, or they are still operating under a legacy workplace.
I also speak in international conferences in Europe and North America about how to plan a modern workplace project, what might go wrong, and why it is a good investment to initiate such project. So, let’s get started.
Everyone nowadays is talking about the Modern Workplace, but today, I want to talk about the WHY part behind implementing the modern workplace. Because think about it for a second. By understanding WHY you need a modern workplace, you will get a better understanding of the WHAT part. That is What is a modern workplace.
By doing that, by understanding the WHY and WHAT, you can convince people and perhaps your manager that it is a good idea and investment to move to a modern workplace. Moreover, by knowing the WHY, this will give you more context when thinking about HOW to implement such a workplace.
Now, before jumping into defining what is a modern workplace, let me ask you something, why we did not hear about the term Modern Workplace 15 years or even 10 years back? Just think about it for a minute. Why we did not hear about the term modern workplace before?
Let me tell you something, let us go back and see how the workplace looked like over time. This might give us more understanding why we heard about the modern workplace just couple of years back. Makes sense?
Back in the 50’s, every person has his own desk and perhaps his own phone. Telephone and paper letters were the main communication tool. Obviously back then, work was attached to the office location, that is work is considered a place to go. You have to be at your desk to do work.
Now, let us move forward in time, and see how the workplace transformed. Let me tell you something, I graduated from university 15 years back, .Back then I joined a big enterprise as an infrastructure engineer. We had emails as the main communication tool. We had file servers to store and share files, although we used email to share documents most of the time. Back then, every information worker had a PC, although we had some laptops purchased specifically for the top management.
When we work, we go to the office and log on to our machines. When we leave the office, there is nothing much that we can do. Life was simple, and things were working just fine. No one was talking about a modern or digital workplace.
So, what happened? Why suddenly every organization is trying to implement a modern workplace? And what does it mean even to have a modern workplace?
There must be a big change and a shift that happened couple of years back, that made us re-imagine the old workplace and demand a modern one. So what is that thing or things that happened in between?
The Modern Workplace – Millennials And the Demographic Change
Well, one of the things is the demographic change happening in the workplace. Yes, demographic change happening in the workplace. We started to see new generations joining the workforce and each generation has different characteristics and expectations than the previous generation. We even have multiple generations under the same roof working together inside your company. This creates what is called a collision of generations as each generation has its own expectations when it comes to the workplace and the way of work.
So, what is the big deal about cross generation (having more than one generation of employees at the workplace)? I mean, who cares about all this? Well, in the context of our discussion about the modern workplace, cross generation is an important factor to consider, because, each generation has its own expectations when it comes to what is the modern workplace and how the modern workplace should look like when it comes to having the job done. So, there is a hidden conflict happening out there, and organizations should do something.
In fact, within a workplace and perhaps at your company, you might have four generations (or even more) working under the same roof. People with different expectations and exposure to technology.
And these generations got cool names also. So, we have the:
They are born between 1946 and 1964. And one of the most significant events of the Boomer post-war years was the moon landing. They prefer to work at the office, they are team players and they enjoy working in groups.
Gen X for short, they are born between 1965 and 1979 which is the ambitious and goal-oriented generation, also called the MTV generation!
Born between 1980 and 1998. They are also called Generation Y or Gen Y or short. They grew up with globalization and they have clear ideas about their workplace. Work must be fun and enriching, and they wouldn’t accept anything else.
Gen Z for short, they are born after 1998. The unique thing about this generation is their intensive use of the internet at all levels. As digital natives, they have perfect understanding of modern means of communication from early childhood. They are considered to be both conscientious and super outgoing.
Why Millennials Are So Important?
Why Millennials are so important? And why now? I mean Generation X joined Baby boomers at work one day, and no one cares. Why suddenly there is a big buzz around Millennials joining the workforce?
This is because Millennials are the first generation that has spent all their lives exposed to technology. They are the first generation but not the only one, as we have now Generation Z or Gen Z that comes after Millennials.
So, if you were born in Year 2000, then you are part of Generation Z. Nevertheless, everyone is still talking about Millennials and not Generation Z !
This is because Millennials alone will account for 50% of the global workforce in 2020, and up to 75% of the global workforce by 2025.
Just think about these numbers. That is a huge! I mean, in 2020, half of the global workforce will be Millennials who have spent all their lives exposed to technology!
That means that Millennials are going to shape the future worker. And for sure they will change the world of work as we know it today.
Millennials are also expected to transform the work environment in almost every aspect, shaping by that the 2020 workplace.
So, with Millennials forming up to 50% of global workforce by 2020 and up to 75% by 2025, organizations have big responsibilities in changing the workplace to attract Millennials, because Millennials will soon be the ones in charge of big decisions and in fueling creativity in big and small businesses.
In fact, if your company is looking to attract and retain talent, then that talent most likely will be a millennial. So, let me put it this way, Millennials are important to every organization and we want to change the workplace to fit their needs
Millennials, what do we know about them?
Well, we know for sure that they are surrounded by technology all their lives, so clearly, they have unique expectations that are different than previous generations. They are also known of having big sense of purpose. They want their work to matter. For them they don’t care about how long a task might take, they care about the result and meaning of work.
They also have a unique way of work, they do not know or expect to commute for one hour just to reach work, or to set in a cubical. They are not comfortable to work from 9 to 5 or even use legacy technologies.
So, Millennials have changed the 40-hour work week model, as they want to work (when they want), where they want. Work is no longer a place to go, but rather things you do, no matter where you are and what device you are using. Again, Work is things you do, not a place to go! This shift is happening now.
Mobility from the other hand, was a term associated with laptops, as a way to express the ability to work on the same device from anywhere. Same device anywhere. So, mobility was about the device. The device is mobile.
But today, the mobility is about the user. The user is mobile and is using multiple devices. When in office for example, you might be using your work machine, on the road you might using your phone to check emails, and at home you might be using a tablet to join a meeting.
Mobility is not about the device anymore, mobility is about the user (the user is mobile and is using multiple devices), and technology should enable such experience across devices. So, there is a big shift in the way we think about mobility.
In fact, a recent study revealed that almost 90 % of Millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work, rather than being placed in a 9 to 5 position. This creates a pressure in companies to offer more flexibility in return.
In another study, interesting study actually, 45% of Millennials will choose workplace flexibility over pay, according to a recent millennial branding report. That is interesting, they put workplace flexibility over money. 45% will choose workplace flexibility over pay! This is huge.
So, to address all that, there is actually a need for a different type of a workplace, a modern workplace.
For organizations to attract and retain top talent today and in the future, they must change the workplace and make it more convenient to new generations to meet their expectations. They should invest in technology and tools that encourage team work across devices and allow access to information from anywhere and any device.
Forrester found that 41 percent of employees report they now spend more time away from their desk than they did two years ago.
And a recent study revealed that 89% of Millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work rather than being placed in a 9-to-5 position. So, what does this mean?
This calls for investments in more personal computing tools that adapt with both the individual and the group, because to Millennials, work is not a place to go, for them, work is things they do, and they don’t care where and when they do their work.
Four Things Millennials Are Changing In The Workplace
Let us talk now about 4 things Millennials are changing in the workplace
1. Cloud Becomes The Undisputed IT Standard
Millennials are and will fill important roles and positions in organizations, and they will be the decision makers who determine company’s IT strategy and communications infrastructure. They have grown up in a connected world based on cloud services, and they expect the same at work. In fact, cloud services to them become the norm, not the exception. Cloud services to them become the norm, not the exception.
2. The Emerge of Cross-Generation Learning Partnership
With up to four generations under the same roof, you can expect Millennials and Generation Z to possess digital skills that previous generations do not have. From the other side, younger colleagues can benefit from many years of business experience that older colleagues have gained.
This results in cross-generation learning partnership, where from one side, younger generation can help older workers become more familiar with digital technologies. And from the other side , older generation can coach younger generations at work from their experience.
Therefore, Millennials can be a good choice when you launch a champions program or early adopter program for new technologies. They can coach and evangelize new technologies across the organization, and help older generation adopt and use new technologies.
3. Millennials Create Shadow IT
Now, older generation workers tend to wait to receive approval for their suggestions for improvements and waiting for things to be fixed especially when it comes to technology. Mainly, because they do not possess digital skills. From the other hand, the new generation is already looking for a solution if not implementing one. The DIY or (Do It Yourself) generation is simply not familiar with conventional top-down approaches in the workplace as they prefer to take challenges into their own hands rather than waiting for hierarchy to follow through.
This is what you might be seeing now in your organization. If the tools and technology is not available in the workplace to help young generation do their job, they are not afraid to go and try any third-party tool available online, if that tool can help them get the job done.
They don’t wait for IT approval and they are not afraid to try things out, as they are familiar with technology and cloud services. In fact, they might be using such tools in their personal lives already.
This creates a shadow IT inside your company, where unapproved tools and services are being used without the knowledge of IT or security team, as Millennials have become comfortable downloading and using apps and services from the cloud to assist them in their work. This introduces big security threat as unapproved IT tools and cloud services might be used to store corporate data for example. This is a big problem for companies, if you don’t provide the tools, Millennials will find a way to bring their own tools.
4. communications Becomes More Active
Older generation is used to communicating via email every day, making couple of phone calls and having a regular team meeting every week. This is how the old generation works.
Millennials and Generation Z embody an active communication culture, as they are used to have everything happening instantaneously. If they want to buy something, they go to Amazon and it arrives the next day. If they want to watch a TV series, they watch it online and they don’t have to wait one week for the next episode. For them, email communication is extremely slow and is a formal way of communication. They might not have an email account in their personal lives, as they use Facebook to communicate with their friends.
Millennials and Gen Z expect communications to take place across channels – voice, instant messaging, social media and video. They have this deep meaning of purpose, so communication should be purposeful and driven by demand. So, swift decisions can be made by a short message, while for complicated decisions they prefer real time communication tools like voice and video conference. It is all about having options and flexibility of communication, which leads to more dynamics in teamwork and increases productivity.
So, for any business to remain agile, innovative and relevant over the next years, it must attract, retain and unlock the potential of its human capital. As more and more organizations, large and small, are globally dispersed, an engaged workforce is at the heart of driving business forward. Things have evolved to the point where a knowledge work is primarily about creating content together.
Any business that is really looking to transform is likely making investment in three key areas:
The first Technology, do you have the right tools that enable the mobility of experiences across devices and from anywhere.
Second is about the Space or Workplace Environment, are you building the right environment that encourage collaboration among your employees.
And the third is the Culture, and this is very important, because great organizations get the imperative to move technology from being a feature of the workplace to being the foundation of it. To really think about technologies that are built from ground up for collaboration, that are built for multiple people to work and input together at the same time, thus building trust and connection across generations, and sets the stage for more innovative outcomes.
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Please also feel free to connect with me on Twitter @ammarhasayen, as I love engaging with people and exchange ideas all the time.