In the digital economy, how can businesses keep the millennial generation happy?

There’s a phenomenon occurring in the workplace. Millennials – people born between the early 1980s to the early 2000s – are taking over. By 2020, more than half of the workforce will be made up of the millennial generation (source: PwC). Now in their 20s and early 30s, their influence in the office environment has already created changes in the way digital technologies are used.

Millennials have been brought up in the digital age, using digital technologies and there’s an expectation that this type of tech should be available while they’re in the office. Organisations have to both attract and keep this vibrant, digitally savvy workforce – but how? How can businesses adapt to this trend?

> See also: Learning from the ‘digital natives’

It’s clear the mobile workforce is in full swing, aided by the consumerisation of IT and the ‘bring your own device’ (BYOD) mentality. With the explosion of cloud apps connecting people to business apps from wherever they are too, flexible working is becoming a reality and businesses need to adapt – quickly. This millennial workforce expects to be able to avoid the commute, to work from the comfort of their own home or their local cafe.

In fact, this is even a wider issue. All four of the generations currently in the workplace strive for more flexibility with working hours but Millennials seem to be a driving force. When surveyed, 73% of Millennials in the UK expected to work some degree of ‘unconventional hours’ every week.

For both flexible hours and flexible locations to be a possibility for Millennials, remote working requires organisations to embrace developing enterprise mobility technologies. This will help businesses move towards a future where IT is positioned as less of an ‘issue-resolver’ and more of a ‘proactive strategist’ driving the technology enhancements that will enable and attract this tech-savvy workforce.

To address this, hosted cloud services are being recognised for their many benefits and are being adopted at an astonishing rate by many businesses. To accompany increased cloud adoption, where once the desk phone was the mainstay of office communications, it is being increasingly replaced with the mobile phone or a hybrid of both.

With the technology becoming increasingly secure and reliable, in terms of a reduction in coverage blackspots for phones, organisations are turning to unified communications (UC) to keep millennial workers happy. Hosted voice over IP (VoIP) and cloud UC services serve as the ideal platform for enterprises looking to provide limitless mobility, whilst lowering their total cost of ownership (TCO).

Roaming is also a key challenge for businesses with remote workers. This is forming an important part of the future of communication and the infrastructure needs to be in place. Once upon a time, a business trip abroad meant you would be out of the office and out of contact until your return.

As everyone knows, this is no longer the case. Some employers even claim their employees are more productive while travelling than when they are in the office! It’s become essential to have both internet access and a phone signal wherever you’re working in the world, taking the remote office to a whole new level. Advancements in technology means that mobiles can be linked to WiFi, ensuring that employers are not hit with eye-wateringly steep phone bills at the end of the month too.

> See also: 25 and going strong: Why the World Wide Web will continue to affect business communications

Another interesting element in this move towards flexible working is the effect it has on the work/life balance. When surveyed, Millennials, more than any other generation, expect to have freedom in their working life for a higher level of job satisfaction. This means that one of the greatest benefits an organisation can offer its millennial workforce is the ability to work remotely.

It’s not only working remotely that helps businesses to address Millennials’ needs. Here is my shortlist of five UC functions Millennials require:

Videoconferencing – Having multimedia tools that include video available in the VoIP phone environment is critical. Employees need to collaborate instantly and turn a simple phone call into a group discussion. Millennials at work expect to use the latest collaboration tools, such as video conferencing with room-based systems, peer-to-peer video and web conferencing.

BYOD – Millennials already own their favourite smartphone and tablet, so make sure you can integrate their devices with your existing office phone system—securely, simply and cost effectively. Doing so will help Millennials stay connected from any location around the world on any network e.g. voice over Wi-Fi, voice over 3G/4G or cellular.

Instant messaging – Millennials, more often than not, have little time or patience to wait for responses or a call back. Rather, they expect instant gratification and answers. Providing instant messaging and chat tools between employees needs to be an important cornerstone of your business phone system.

CRM – Your entire staff needs instant access to CRM tools and directories, and Millennials (even though they are young) know the value of having phone data aligned with business data in a CRM system.  

Visual voicemail – Millennials are generally multitasking pros and can juggle many responsibilities and communication channels at once. It has become more of a habit for them growing up with smartphones. Millennials are accustomed to having easy-to-use visual voicemail like their mobile devices provide. Ideally, their voicemail is integrated with their Microsoft Outlook inbox, giving them the ability to send and retrieve voicemail messages from email and also sync meetings with their Outlook calendar.

Some more traditional companies may find it a little difficult to stomach but the reality is that the workplace is changing and we need to cater to those who are driving the change. Technology can help make these high expectations achievable. All that businesses need to do is be open to the opportunities available. The reality is that IT is not a one-time endeavour but a continual process that should evolve as business needs change, and as workers change their habits, and lifestyles.

Sourced from Adrian Hipkiss, MD EMEA, ShoreTel

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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