Great Expectations - How Millennials are Redefining Work

Marc Wilkinson, Chief Technologist, Hewlett-Packard
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Marc Wilkinson, Chief Technologist, Hewlett-Packard

Millennials are flooding the workplace and bringing a whole new dynamic on how the rest of the workforce interacts, communicates and stays connected in and out of the office.

It might be easy to say that this is a new problem, but these wild sweeping generalizations occur every decade or so as the critical mass of a new generation begins to shake up the status quo of the global work culture. This time, however, the change is so disruptive and happening so fast, a global change in culture has happened in less than 15 years.

Even more surprising, the new generation’s habits are crossing the generation boundary every day. Gen-Xers and baby boomers are picking up the new, and adopting the behaviors and expectations of millennials for themselves.

Instantly connected and always on

There is an increasing compulsion to be connected and be available – wherever they are, all the time. Nielsen found that an astounding 83 percent of millennials say that they sleep with their smart phones. Gone are the days when arranging to meet somebody involved letters back and forth or a telephone conversation from a land-line. Now you just turn up and send the other parties a short message along the way. Friendly arguments over information and facts are also a thing of the past. Insights, applications and data are available anywhere and at their fingertips from any device.

Experience is king

Millennials are typically impatient and demonstrate a complete lack of tolerance for bad user experiences. The Aberdeen Group found 25percentage of users abandon a mobile application after a three-second delay. But when something works well, they become the most rapidly adopters and quick habit changers in history. With the plethora of applications in the various app stores, users also will iterate very quickly through applications and services.

Not so personal or private lives

Millennials are much more likely to share personal information, but at the same time they trust and bond with strangers with relative ease. This comfort with new social mediums means that they are quick to give instant praise and feedback, in a much more direct fashion, since many formats of the messages are constrained in length.

Constant multi-tasking is the new normal

Fundamentally, humans are still monochronic, in a world that throws demands at us at a phenomenal rate – a world that expects us to be polychronic. Today’s generation is able to deal with multi-tasking much easily, and be surprised when applications and imany of their co-workers are not designed for such approach to doing things. At the same time, they expect rewards for their attention, essentially driven by instantaneous gratification.

While the previous generations are adopting millennial led approaches, they are subverting them in their own way – adopting and promoting specific and individual interaction styles – preferences born out of their past, their experiences, generational attitude as well as individual nuances. This is leading to a plethora of new interaction models that if you can get it right, results in a significant positive response. However, get it wrong and you will lose engagement and interest, support and perception will be negatively impacted.

These sets of behaviors, interactions and expectations leads us into the unknown, typically associated with emergent behavior, leading us into an exciting world of rapid adoption, ubiquitous communication and the ability to derive insight from anything.

Key building blocks to smooth transition and maximize user experience

While hard to model and predict, we can see the critical capabilities that are going to be needed to support this dramatic change in behaviors, expectations and culture. We can start to address some of the key building blocks now to smooth the transition and maximize the user experience going forward.

For example, ubiquitous network connectivity will increase demand in wireless density and backbone capacity. Far greater capacity is available today as we address the demands on the new waves of connected devices thanks to the growing Internet of Things. ABI Research predicts the number of wireless connected devices will increase from 16billion in 2014 to over 40billion in 2020.

“Today’s generation is able to deal with multi-tasking much easily, and be surprised when applications and many of their co-workers are not designed for such approach to doing things”

Add in another layer with big data comes the need for instant insight and action on these multi-device users’ needs. We must be able to deliver the capability to stand up on-demand analytics and allow the new generations to build their own services whenever and wherever they want. Analytics at a scale that can “drink from the fire hose,” move us towards predictive analysis and intuition to support a polychronic way of working.

Another complication is how these devices will impact your disappearing security perimeter. Threat surface is now global, there is no bulletproof method for securing an application or system, and instead we need to focus on securing the data in transit and at rest, independent of the application. By investing in these technical capabilities, we begin to shape the unknown, thereby steering the next generation and smoothing the transition for the previous groups.

In conclusion, we need to think differently when designing mobility for the new style of the workplace – we need to think like a millennial. Avoid using current constructs as an answer to a tough problem. Future generations will, like the river, carve their own path, and it won’t be with an older style of interaction or communication methods. Imagine a world where we didn’t use email, it isn’t that far away. Millennials and future generations will move beyond email – in the same way many of us moved beyond the memo.

Remember, apply just enough guidance and policy to manage business risk – too much and you will see people simply going around the barriers you’ve put in place “to help”. When designing, building and delivering products or services – internally or externally – the expectations are high, and if we fail to meet them, users will simply move on and bypass you and your products or services.

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