Millennials and communication in the future workforce
by Eduard du Plessis, MD of EOH Network Solutions Division
The millennial generation, born between 1980 and 2000 – and now entering employment en masse – will shape the world of work for many years to come. Their career aspirations and attitudes about work, and their affinity with new technologies will come to define companies’ culture and business practices.
Given both that they represent the future and will soon make up the majority of the workforce, attracting the best of them is critical to the future of your business.
To do so, you need to understand their perspectives and behaviours, particularly their use of modern communication technologies.
Why is communication so important in all of this?
Technology has steadily helped us to communicate faster, more easily and more often. We have become so accustomed to being “always connected” that we virtually panic when we temporarily lose the ability to communicate – when we leave our mobile phones at home, for instance.
As always, the directions in which we innovate are a combination of what is technically possible and what is socially desirable. Technological advancements determine the possibilities, but our needs determine which ones will actually become part of the fabric of our lives.
Thus, this need to be constantly connected – combined with the latest technology – has made communication such a disruptive and important aspect of the business world.
How millennials use communication technology
It is millennials’ use of technology that clearly sets them apart. One of the defining characteristics of this generation is their virtually symbiotic relationship with the digital world. They have grown up with broadband, smartphones, laptops, apps and social media as the norm, and they expect instant access to information.
Consequently, this is the first generation to enter the workplace with a better grasp of key business tools than more senior staff members. This needs to be carefully managed, as technology can be a catalyst for intergenerational conflict, with millennials feeling restricted by rigid or outdated modes of work.
Which leads to another facet of millennials – more than the way they use technology, it’s the way they behave that makes them different.
Millennials expect the technologies that empower their personal lives to also drive communication and innovation in the workplace. The vast majority of them believe that access to technology makes them more effective at work.
In a recent PwC survey, 41% of the participating millennials said that they prefer to communicate electronically at work, rather than face-to-face or even over the telephone.
What’s more, over half of those surveyed routinely use their own technology at work, with 78% saying that access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective in their jobs. They also place strong emphasis on an employer being able to provide state-of-the-art technology, with 59% saying that this is an important factor in their decision to accept a job or not.
The message is clear
Forward-looking companies wishing to attract the most talented millennials need to adapt their IT policies to accommodate the technology habits of such employees.
Some of these forward-looking companies are already appealing more directly and tangibly to millennials, by offering a choice of smartphones as an employee benefit. They also actively encourage business-focused social media use.
Others are implementing UC technologies to integrate and optimise all channels of business communication.
Eduard du Plessis is a telecommunications specialist and has been passionately involved in product development, operations and product marketing in the telecommunications industry since 1997. Eduard was the MD at InfoSat from 1997 to 2002 and in 2003 he founded Ensync Business Solutions. He has driven two successful start-up companies in the mobile data and wireless networking spaces (Ensync and AfricaINX) and is now the MD at EOH Network Solutions in its telecommunications sector.