How CIO could play a role in attracting and retaining the new generations of workers

The labour market is fast evolving and faces the arrival […]

July 26, 2012

The labour market is fast evolving and faces the arrival of a new generation of workers, called Generation Y. Also called the Millennials, they were born between 1982 and 2005 and are expected to represent 75% of the workforce in 2025.

According to the American Society of Training and Development, 76 million Americans will retire over the next two decades, while only 46 million will enter into the market, the majority of whom will be Generation Y. Companies that would like to attract and retain the best of this new workforce need to take into consideration their values and way of life. Generation Y’ers are typically more go-ahead and independent than previous generations, with new behaviours and new needs.  Thus companies must be prepared to catch these new candidates and adapt accordingly their recruitment strategy and working environment.

Also referred to as the “digital generation”, they have grown up with television, computers and the Internet, all of which have strongly influenced work habits, behaviour and perceptions of effectiveness.  Comfortable with Web 2.0 applications and multitasking, Millennials are innovative and hard-working but expect to have a clear vision and understanding of their objectives. Individuality is important which means that flexibility and recognition are highly valued. Companies cannot expect the new generation to conform to their current and old working model; to be attractive, they need to adapt fast and create a working environment in line with new cultural trends.

According to a Johnson Controls study published in 2010, 56% of the “digital generation” prefer to have flexibility in their daily schedule and 79% of them prefer to be mobile rather than static workers. To meet their expectations and be attractive, some employers already launched new HR internal policies highlighting flexibility at work (flexi or annualised hours, home or mobile working,… ). However, with the proliferation of new mobile devices, applications, and operating systems, IT departments are struggling to deliver the requested services and adequate support. As workers will increasingly work from outside the office, it will be increasingly difficult for them to control device and application usage, and most importantly, to monitor the corporate information flowing out of the company’s walls. They will have to rely on new kinds of infrastructure and enrich their policies to deliver and secure sensitive data on both IT-owned and employee-owned devices.

To be competitive with promising start-ups and attract future business leaders, industry leaders should actively promote innovation and creativity. According to a study written by the Career Advisory Board and Harris Interactive in 2011, 71% of Millennials reported that meaningful work was among the most important factors defining career success. Moreover, they are looking for a continuously changing environment, with a multi-task job and a personal development plan to remain motivated and challenged. Gamification could be a way to introduce more meaning and challenge in a working environment, that is to say adding game-like aspects in the work process, with employee recognition programs. For instance a list of achievements or a set of rewards can be a motivation tool for juniors and boost their performance at work.

Bringing new collaboration and social tools into the company

The gap is not as large between generation Y and other generations. Communication and collaboration tools introduced into the workplace over the last few years are very intuitive to use and consequently reduce the generation gap, enabling new ways to connect employees. By offering a unified communication platform like Microsoft Lync, CIO will allow junior and more experienced employees to keep track of their contacts’ availability, send instant messages, start or join an audio, video, or web conference, all through a consistent and familiar interface. If there is a need to collaborate with external business partners or clients, introducing Skype could be an interesting idea; permitting audio or video calls, or chatting with a community exceeding 150 million members worldwide. Knowledge sharing among generations could be promoted by deploying tools like Quora that could become the easiest way for young workers to ask questions and experienced workers to share their experience and points of view.

Social networks are powerful tools which can also be used in day to day work. For example, Google+ can be used by people to publish professional information on their own Web page, define specific circles with their colleagues or team mates to seamlessly collaborate and exchange instant messages, share or work together on documents or create video conferences when needed. “Private” solutions like Yammer could achieve the same goal while remaining restricted to a company’s employees. With Pearltrees, employees are be able to share web links with colleagues through common tree representations, which can be very useful when working in a team in charge of market studies or research.

The changing landscape of connected mobile devices

With the recent boom of smartphones and tablets, Millennials and previous generations had a first taste of ways to interact and use these devices, including multi-touch, gesture and voice recognition experiences. Future workers (the generation Z), having grown up with them, will certainly expect their inclusion in their day-to-day work. Today, many “tactile” applications provide a better user experience when compared to keyboard and mouse-equipped workstations or laptops, especially when dealing with content-rich or interactive documents. At the forefront of this global trend, Microsoft will release Windows 8 by the end of this year, allowing a unified experience on tactile computers and tablets.

Forthcoming widespread availability of low-cost tactile displays and devices will certainly encourage CIOs to rethink their strategy and mobilize their enterprise systems and resources to offer reliable data access from a variety of device types. By turning to new mobile web application platforms like Verivo or Netbiscuits, they will have the opportunity to create an entire mobile enterprise that will integrate mobile and legacy environments in a seamless, flexible and cost-effective manner. As computers will still to be used for heavy data computations or complex document generation, tablets and touch screens will likely become the new standard for document or multi-media consumption and smartphones for rich mobile communication. While new device classes will continue to emerge, software and services will overtake hardware considerations, and young workers will certainly continue to push new usage scenarios or contexts forward, hardly predictable as of today. CIOs will need to watch the emergence of these new information usage paradigms and evaluate if they create value for the company or are potentially dangerous and require additional safeguards.

Catch them if you can…

80% of Millennials form their opinions of employers through information gathered from websites, according to a study by Career Edge in 2010. The e-reputation, strongly impacted by the company’s e-communication strategy, has become a key factor to attract young workers. All companies have today an institutional website that formally describes their activities and annual financial performance. However, very few have a strategy enabling direct interaction with their clients, candidates for recruitment, employees or alumni. Generation Y’ers usually look for informal communication, insights and testimonials directly from current employees. Companies, universities and high schools have started promoting themselves via social networks like Facebook, Twitter or dedicated blogs which allow them to adopt an informal tone in their communication, presenting fresh news, enabling Internet users to interact with students, graduates or employees of their generation. In the meantime, professional social networks, as LinkedIn, Viadeo and Xing, are increasingly used, becoming a powerful recruitment or corporate identification tool. As of today, LinkedIn references more than 100 million individuals, permitting IT departments to find new talent through searches for educational and professional background or links to social groups (Alumni or professional expertise for example). However, it is not yet used by HR departments as the powerful recruitment instrument it could be.

Adapting CIO strategy to a new workforce

In order to strategically embrace the transformation of IT requested by new generation of employees, CIOs must understand how these changes already have and will continue to impact the enterprise. Rather than working to block these technologies, CIOs must find ways to leverage them while maximizing all employee efficiency and helping to streamline business processes. Through a holistic approach, they not only need to understand how to improve workforce mobility through these Web mobile applications and devices that already impact day-to-day business, but also adopt and promote new sets of collaboration, social networking and communication tools. By doing so, they will change how business gets done by radically changing how people do their jobs, allowing current and future worker generations to imagine the future Enterprise 2.0.

Loïc Dunand (Picture) – Associate Partner – CIO Advisory & David Bellot CIO Advisory

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