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3 Ways Changing Workforce Demographics Will Shape the Future of ITSM

There haven’t been many times where my feelings have been hurt at work. Sure, I’ve had some rough days, and there are some things I wish I could have done or said better—or wish someone else had done or said differently—but I can count on one hand how many times my feelings were genuinely hurt.

The last time was when a longer-tenured leader in the organization remarked on how it was nice to see “a group of millennials” working together on a project. I was holding court with members of the marketing operations team, one of my less-tenured employees, and a younger member of the customer experience team. One of the members of the group (who shall remain nameless) quickly responded, “Oh, Jarod’s not a millennial. He missed the cut. But yeah, it’s cool to be working together like this.”

Ouch.

Not a real millennial? Was I not born in the ’80s? By the textbook, I’m a millennial, but the younger millennials at the core of this demographic see me as being part of a different, older generation. Which underscores the main point of this blog post: Everything you think you know about millennials is likely skewed by the author or researcher’s last set of interactions with millennials, So, it’s critical that we NOT generalize this extremely large group of individuals with anecdotes, including the one I just shared.

What we must talk about, understand, and address is the fact that 40 percent of the workforce is comprised of millennials, and the demographic comes with a different set of expectations when it comes to workplace technology. These expectations have ramifications that IT leaders must account for to enable their organizations to create and protect value—and these ramifications will only become greater as those millennials rise through the ranks to achieve positions of greater power.

Here are a few of those ramifications:

Evolving Expectations of IT

The modern workplace will expect IT to enable productivity, not stifle it.

A recent Gartner report noted that people born after 2010 (dubbed “Generation AI”) will view artificial intelligence (AI) as a natural part of their social and work lives. While you ponder that, think about this:

  • People born after 2000 consider mobile computing a natural part of their social and work lives
  • People born after 1990 consider personal computing a natural part of their social and work lives

As computing becomes more ubiquitous and available, enterprise IT will no longer be the sole enabler of productivity, which means getting on board—or getting out of the way. Command-and-control-IT, while required for organizations in certain verticals, simply won’t work for a changing workforce that demands freedom and flexibility.

A case in point: not so long ago, the use of Apple devices was a non-starter in many organizations. But now, consider the rate at which Macs, iPhones, and iPads are seeing rapid adoption among enterprise users. Ditto for lockdown support environments, which has been a cornerstone of IT security policies. However, a modern workforce might not be willing to forfeit administrative rights to their PC. There’s evidence from HR leaders that prospective employees need to understand their technology-related freedoms as a condition for accepting roles—and IT organizations will need to re-think their approaches and learn to adapt.

A Need for Self Sufficiency

The modern workplace will favor self-sufficiency, but traditional ITSM approaches will struggle to measure this.

Today, IT typically measures self-sufficiency by a drop in contract volume through traditional channels—meaning that a decrease in phone calls and emails can be directly attributed to the presence of self-service portals, knowledge bases, and service catalogs that automate request fulfillment. While those may be contributing factors, there are other factors at work, too. IT departments must understand the role that social software in the workplace plays in connecting users and subject matter experts; the reality that SaaS-based technologies are easier to use, manage, and administer; and finally, how shadow IT can enable employees to be productive with technology they don’t care whether IT knows about.

Visibility into those channels will be vital to understand how your employees use technology to get work done. That means IT leaders shouldn’t penalize employees for this behavior, but rather foster and encourage productive dialogue in search of a balance between improving productivity and mitigating risks.

Communication—And Not Over the Phone

It will become increasingly important to offer new channels for IT service and support.

IT continues to see spikes in phone-based contacts, taking more phone calls last year than they did the year prior. It’s important for IT to obtain further insight into those contacts. Who’s calling? What are they calling about? What’s the architype of a typical caller, versus an employee who’s more prone to use self-service? Are there service level agreements tied to phone support that your organization is keenly aware of?

Answers to these questions might point you down a path to consider alternative channels for support that don’t involve the phone, such as auto-logging, chat, email, and walk-up. Beyond those standard forms of communication, IT shouldn’t discount the role of video in tech support, understanding that a two-minute video walkthrough of a workaround to the top known error may yield a higher consumption rate than a 10-step static knowledge article. Try it—have your best technician take your top 10 answers to your top 10 FAQ’s and post those videos to your self-service portal. If your users don’t consume them, it’s not a wasted effort by any means—you’re also showing other technicians how work should be performed.

I firmly believe there will always be a need for a technical resource in between the business and the technology to offer support, training, and enablement, but IT leaders must consider the role artificial intelligence will play in supporting and supplementing their efforts to optimize efficiencies, increase scale, and satisfy their customers.

Next Up: Get the service desk guide to AI readiness.