How to work with millennials

The millennials generation (born in the 1980s and 1990s) are expected to represent about 75% of the world’s workforce by 2025, a study from the Business and Professional Women’s Foundation predicts.

This phenomenon has profound implications for how we live and work today, as these “digital natives,” who were figuratively born with a mobile device in their hand, have a different way of communicating, working, socialising, making purchases and generally living, than other generations before them.

The millennial profile

Millennials today don’t tend to place as much value as previous generations on saving money to purchase a home or a car, or building a family. This is very much reflected in their consumption patterns, as they tend to cut costs by living with parents longer or by taking advantage of today’s networked economy by crowdsourcing and sharing goods, such as cars, apartments and more.

Most of all, millennials are always connected and looking for innovation. They are connected to each other and to the internet every day, almost all day. Sharing on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Weibo; shopping online through eBay and Amazon; and chatting through WhatsApp.

Nielsen estimates 74% of young adults aged 24-34 own a smartphone. In other words, millennials are mobile, in the cloud and consume/produce lots of data.

In Asia, this connectedness has provided millennials with exposure to other cultures, often generating a desire for increased self-expression. The central metropolis areas, in particular, see users with internet access and micro-blogging tools giving them a sense of empowerment that wasn’t present in previous generations.

And like millennials in the West, those in Asia are delaying marriage and switching jobs more often.

Millennials’ use of technology – both in life and at work – is reflected in their expectations from employers. They tend to see work as something one does, not as a place where they go.

They are more capable than any generation before them to produce work from home or even on the go, as they commute to an event or return from a weekend in the mountains.

The implications of the millennial profile

The implications of this situation for employers and enterprises are that they need to adapt to the needs of digital nomads – employees who are increasingly independent of specific locations and who use cloud-based tools to access and do their work.

As millennials continue to demand the ability to access and share information “wherever” and “whenever,” it becomes critical for enterprises to make cloud-based solutions available.

Millennials also place great importance on working with information in real-time. Their constant connectivity empowers them with access to live, up-to-date information that can help them be more informed and make better decisions.

That’s why it is important for enterprises today to empower workers with access to real-time decision-making tools.

Enterprises, therefore, shouldn’t consider millennials solely in the context of having them as employees. This huge generation is also working for customers and partners. Enterprises that don’t adapt to the needs of millennials aren’t just at risk of losing interest from current and potential employees, but also of losing business deals.

Millennials on the partner or customers side want to work with peers who can match their expectations and approach to business. Those who cannot meet these expectations will not be successful in working with millennials.

Similarly, members of other generations need to adapt to the sea of change that cloud, big data and the power of real-time decision-making has brought to the workplace. Managers who aren’t able to adapt to the new realities of the workplace imposed by younger generations and technology driven innovation are at risk of losing relevance and their competitive edge.

In other words, it’s critical for enterprises and workers today to continue evolving with the needs and changes imposed by innovation and youth.

In that respect, moving systems to the cloud and using tools that empower employees to make informed decisions in real-time will go a long way. Those who don’t follow suit may find it hard to attract the best employees and to make deals with partners and customers.

Jairo Fernandez is VP of human resources for SAP Asia Pacific Japan

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