Are millennials to thank for workplace innovation?

In an effort to make your caffeine buying habits even easier, Hacker Ryan Pickren developed a physical button that can order Starbucks with a single press. Is this unadulterated innovation or another example of a lazy millennial trying to automate their life?

While some may see inventions like this as supporting a lazy lifestyle, the reality is that millennial inventions like the Starbucks button are innovative and forward-thinking.

In fact, despite sometimes being stereotyped as lazy and entitled, millennials have helped transform the way people use technology in their personal and work lives for the better.

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For example, Laura Behrens Wu created Shippo, a multi-carrier shipping API and dashboard. Behrens identified the need for businesses to compare shipping rates, a problem that was causing a domino effect of inefficiency in the shipping process. So she automated the process and created a platform that’s used by 10,000 companies today.

In most cases, innovation isn’t being used as merely an easier way to solve problems, it’s about solving more problems efficiently. With millennials spending the majority of their time at work, the office is a good place to start.

How technology is changing the workplace

The need for efficiency isn’t limited to personal experiences. Millennials want the same efficiency as they go about their work lives. As millennials struggle with work-life balance, efficiency can be the difference between leaving the office at five and eating dinner in a cubicle- and this can benefit workers of all generations.

This drive for efficiency has led organizations to incorporate technology, like workflow automation, into daily processes. For example, attaching a single document to five different emails sent to various departments can lead to five different versions of a document floating around an organization.

However, a streamlined workflow can automatically route the same document through the proper channels without a single email or opportunity to drop the ball – or document.

These technologies are making jobs easier, but more importantly, they’re helping employees do jobs better. It’s common sense that taking time out of the day to search for a poorly labeled or misplaced file wastes time, but few businesses think about the money that is lost in these situations. Just searching for misplaced documents in a manual system can cost companies up to $89 billion each year. Time wasted is money lost, so prioritisation of efficiency hits the bottom line.

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To other generations in the workspace, it may seem like businesses are pandering to millennial preferences by adopting new tech practices like workflow automation. While it does fall neatly in line with the priorities of a millennial worker, it is also a good business practice to consistently be searching for ways to improve operations and there’s no denying the efficiency that workplace tech brings.

Millennials’ effect on everyday technology

Millennials don’t see tech as a tool like some of their older counterparts do. For older generations, technology is often seen as a means to an end, but for the savvy millennial tech is a foundational part of life.

This generation is the first to grow up with accessible tech from a very early age making them native to the digital world. Since they came of age as technology advanced, there was no learning curve or struggle to adapt; they’ve just grown up speaking the language.

Although millennials spend between about 20 hours each month in online social interactions, that’s just a small facet of online habits. Millennials carry out many of their routine daily tasks online. Banking is a great example of this.

Mobile banking is a common practice at this point for many generations, but 74% of millennials prioritise banking via a smartphone, even going as far as to purchase mutual funds over the web.

>See also: Have business leaders moved beyond the machine fear factor?

As millennials age, it’s not about an easier completion of tasks, it’s about being able to complete them with efficiency and mobility. Tasks like banking or shopping could just as easily be done manually by going into a physical location, but doing so would lose the efficiency that millennials are accustomed to.

This concept is the same as in the workplace; someone could easily send one document as an email attachment for multiple recipients to edit and later combine the various changes, but why do that when they could automate a workflow to do it for them?

It may seem like businesses are implementing these new technologies just to keep up with the demands of the millennials. But with one in three workers being millennials, it makes sense to align business priorities with those of the growing workforce.

But beyond that, these new technologies, like automation, are making businesses stronger and that benefits employees across generations. Yes, it may seem like a foreign concept to some when millennials prioritise office snacks or flexible hours, but when it comes to tech – they’re onto something.


Sourced by Dr. Antonis Papatsaras, CTO of SpringCM


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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...