A new generation of college graduates is infiltrating the workplace, armed with the latest mobile technologies and a work-anywhere-anytime attitude. According to Deloitte, millennials will make up 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025. This is good news for businesses, as this generation has the talent and skills to help them innovate and compete in the 21st century. However, in order to recruit top-notch talent, organizations must re-evaluate their IT infrastructure and modernize for the future.
“In five years, everyone who will still be alive will be five years older. Your 26-year-old colleagues who currently bring their own devices, talk about work and their social lives on social media — they will all be 31. What does that mean? They’ll be effective, they’ll be competent, they’ll be senior, they’ll be mid-managers. They’ll be making IT-buying decisions,” says Sam Ramji, vice president for strategy at Apigee.
Who are millennials?
Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials came of age in an Internet-enabled world. To put it another way, millennials don’t know a pre-Internet world. They are digital natives, born and raised on technology. For example, having grown up on social media, it defines how they communicate. millennials understand the value of digital technology and seek opportunities for implementing it. All of this shapes their expectations of and for the workplace.
For millennials, work is something you do, not somewhere you go. Case in point: According to Pricewaterhouse Cooper’s millennials survey, “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace,” less than one-third of millennials expect to work regular office hours. More than one-third expect to work mainly flexible hours. Furthermore, millennials want to choose where they live and therefore, where they work. Thankfully, technology makes this all possible. With Internet access and a laptop or other mobile device, today’s employees can work virtually anywhere, and at any time.
According to Deloitte, “Across the globe, 70 percent of tomorrow’s future leaders might ‘reject’ what business as traditionally organized has to offer, preferring to work independently through digital means in the future.”
Unfortunately, many enterprises are not ready to accommodate millennials’ expectations of the workplace. Legacy IT and business processes were built for a different time — when knowledge workers sat in cubicles from 9 to 5, and data stayed behind firewalls. Even in those companies that have enacted Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies, cultures remain rooted in the past. Stuck in this old way of operating, few companies are capable of truly embracing mobility and enabling mobile employees.
Meanwhile, enterprises are faced with the need to innovate — not just to succeed in the 21st century, but also to attract the talent that will enable them to do so. According to Deloitte, “millennials want to work for organizations that support innovation. In fact, 78 percent of millennials are influenced by how innovative a company is when deciding if they want to work there …” The biggest barriers to innovation, as viewed by millennials, are management attitude, operational structures and procedures, and employee skills, attitudes, and lack of diversity.
This begs the question: How do you attract and– perhaps more importantly, retain — millennial employees?
Modernizing IT for the next generation
“IT Service Providers need to have millennials’ needs implemented into the software in order for the organization to be a valid choice. Your short-term track is not necessarily to cater to the needs of millennials, but don’t prevent them from being effective the only way they can be by telling them that they can’t have the technologies that they are perfectly capable of affording and implementing themselves,” Ramji says.
In its report, PricewaterhouseCoopers offers this advice: Set millennials free. “If you know what you want done by when, why does it matter where and how they complete the task? … Does it matter if they work from home or a coffee shop if that’s where they are most productive?”
These new norms have far-reaching implications. As Ramji puts it, “You had better be paying very close attention to how 26-year-olds work now, because you only have a couple years to modify your own software offerings or create new offerings that will make them very happy and keep you in the running.”
IT organizations must modernize their IT software and infrastructure to support a flexible workforce and virtual teams. This means enabling BYOD, developing and deploying mobile apps, and rolling out tools that facilitate seamless collaboration. All of this can be facilitated by tapping the power of the cloud and application programming interfaces (APIs).
The cloud enables businesses to scale efficiently and economically. New applications and digital services and products can be easily tested and launched in the cloud, where computing resources can be increased or scaled back based on need. The data collected via these applications and services can also be stored in the cloud, where it can be easily leveraged in other applications and services via APIs.
APIs are the digital glue that enables developers to create apps for every human endeavor. APIs have played a significant role in the rise of the app economy, which is fundamentally changing how organizations drive their products, services and brand engagement. With API-driven platforms like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Salesforce, IT organizations can modernize their IT software and deliver the level of engagement millennials demand.
Robert Duffner is responsible for Salesforce1 Platform mobile strategy at Salesforce.com. He is a self-described “software product guy,” and has been working in the industry for 17 years for big companies, such as IBM and Microsoft, and startups, like Apigee and Apiphany. Reach him @rduffner.
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.