Business must embrace the millennials to survive

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Millennials looking at a laptop

It’s the millennials world, everyone else just lives in it. Business must embrace their work culture to survive and thrive, says Bibi Bajwa of cloud services specialists Ormuco

Whether you call them millennials or Generation Y, one thing’s clear –  their relationship with technology has endowed them with a set of abilities and expectations rare in older generations.

As they now make up nearly half the workforce – and will be three-quarters of it by 2025 – it is important to understand their impact on both business culture and technology.

Digital transformation now a priority

While generational transition, globalisation, and an economy still spluttering towards recovery will each play an important role, technology is likely to be the number-one factor in determining your business growth over the next decade.

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, nanotechnology, additive manufacturing (3D printing to you and me), the Internet of Things, brain-computer interfaces, smart robots, autonomous vehicles, ubiquitous clouds and more will further transform our world. Those who don’t change are liable to go the way of Kodak.

So, how do we make the most of these new capabilities, and the new generation of employees who will use, produce and sell them?

Millennials and cultural transformation

Much has been made of the ‘fact’ that millennials work to live, rather than live to work; that they are more concerned with changing the world than buckling down to a career or getting a foot on the property ladder. Work-life balance matters to them – in a recent survey 45 per cent say they would prioritise flexible working over pay increases.

Companies hoping to attract the brightest will have to change their working practices. This might mean remote working, job sharing and non-hierarchical structures for greater flexibility, much as today’s hip Silicon Valley start-ups, many of them founded by millennials, do.

How true that is remains to be seen. Previous generations also had very different priorities in their early twenties than they have today.

However, when your employees are used to mobile devices and apps, which allow them to be as productive in a café or on top of a mountain as they are in the office, then the benefits of strict deskbound schedules have to be re-assessed. Plenty of studies have found that flexibility helps to improve morale, flexibility and innovation.

Full disclosure: the founder and CEO of my company, Ormuco, is a millennial. He was just 24 when he launched in 2007, and has since led its transformation from a telco to a systems integrator to a cloud provider serving over three million users. From first-hand experience, I can say the agile culture he fostered has played a significant role in our success.

The ‘consumerisation’ of enterprise IT

Young people have grown up with hi-tech devices and may find it disconcerting to have to swap them for often antiquated PC and desktop software.

This has led to the ‘consumerisation’ of enterprise IT, where employees bring their own devices to the office, and business managers go around the IT department to access the solutions they need to get the job done. They often turn to cloud-based apps like Salesforce, Slack or Mail Chimp, or public cloud services which anyone can set up in minutes.

While IT governance and compliance are important, this flexibility to think around problems and not be confined to a narrow path dictated by the IT department is crucial to success in the new digital world.

The flipside is that millennials used to consumer IT, which offers a more streamlined user-friendly experience, may not have the discipline or skills to take so easily to a five-year-old CRM or ERP system, or even everyday business productivity tools such as Outlook and Excel.

One answer, of course, is to update to more modern, cloud-based systems. If this is not possible, the ‘cloudification’ of legacy systems can bring you additional operational flexibility and scalability.

Create the future – don’t be dragged into it

Whatever your line of business, digital transformation is now a necessity.

By 2025 the majority of your employees, including your management team, will probably be millennials. It is likely – because that is what they continually tell us – that a flexible approach to management and structure will get the best out of them. The question is not whether companies can offer things like flexible and remote working, BYOD, hot-desking and design your own job – the technology is certainly available – but whether they want to.

This type of cultural shift is coming anyway. Fully unlocking the potential of the new technologies that enable digital transformation demands innovation, which requires the right type of environment to flourish.

Businesses don’t get dragged kicking and screaming into the future. They either grow into it by helping to create it, or they die. Perhaps we could all do with thinking a little more like Generation Y after all.

At least until 2025 – by when Generation Z will be looking for jobs. And what happens after that is anyone’s guess.

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About author

Bibi Bajwa

Bibi Bajwa

Bibi Bajwa is chief operating officer of cloud services specialists Ormuco

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