How Millennials Can Help Your IT Department Accelerate Productivity
Posted by on February 10, 2016
One of the great consequences of technological advancement is an increase in the speed of change. Businesses must operate more and more quickly to keep up, and the work methods of the millennial generation may provide the key to working more productively.
My previous blog discussed the workplace expectations of millennials because I believe it's important for IT leaders to gain insight into the millennial mindset. As a millennial who works for a fast growing IT software company, I’d like to speak directly to IT leaders in IT terms.
Millennials turn to Shadow IT to get their work done more efficiently, but they’re taking risks in doing so. So, how can IT’s tools and processes help companies successfully navigate the changes that come from rapid technological advancement? Let’s examine how millennials get things done and how their work habits may provide some answers.
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Flexibility – Millennials Are “Free Range” Workers
Everyone knows millennials crave flexible work environments. We use our devices to get personal tasks done wherever we are, so why not do the same in our work lives? A new website dedicated to freelance opportunities, Upwork, recently wrote an article about millennials’ attraction to flexible working hours and spaces. Elance-oDesk also reports millennials have a significant desire and expectation to work in a manner similar to freelancers. Many millennials want the option to work from home, desire a schedule that deviates from traditional bankers’ hours, and prefer to measure their success using KPIs, rather than hours spent in front of a computer screen or in an office.
How can you use the concept of a “free range” work environment to enable your business to work faster?
- Find reasonable ways for your customers to connect to corporate networks with modern proxies from any device.
- Provide mobile devices and lightweight laptops as standard issue for new employees, or at least make requesting such devices as painless as possible.
- Recognize the mobile mindset by dedicating parts of your team to mobile issues.
- Empower your users to help themselves wherever they are, particularly when they’re not in the office, through effective use of mobile-driven self-service portals.
Mobile First – Millennials are on the Go
You probably noticed this on your way to work this morning – millennials on their phones. Everywhere. Mobile is certainly old news, and yet a majority of millennials feel constrained by the processes and limits currently in place. Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert, discussed the mobile-first mentality in a recent blog: “The next-gen workforce expects a mobile-ready workplace. According to HRM Canada, ‘96 percent expect mobile technology to have a permanent future in the workplace; 22 percent would be less likely to join a company that did not use mobile tech; and 65 percent would like technology as an employee benefit… Today’s world is moving to mobile so rapidly that companies without a mobile-first mentality will have a difficult time attracting and retaining talent.’”
Every meeting I attend I bring one thing: my smartphone—even though almost all of my more tenured coworkers bring paper or laptops. My most recent whiteboard drawings, texts, IMs, emails, tasks, and files are in one place, thus giving me context for a topic or project when it comes up in a meeting. One method isn’t inherently better than another, but my first “millennial” instinct is to reach for my phone for any type of collaboration.
How can you support a mobile-first mentality to help your organization move more quickly?
- Implement effective Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies by surveying your more modern workers’ habits. Use some sort of reward system to get responses, and use those responses to craft a policy that fits the needs of your employees.
- Determine which apps millennials use with that same survey to shine some light on your Shadow IT. Trust me, you have a Shadow IT problem.
- Make an effort to allow popular apps in whatever way possible, even if it means changing your current policies.
- List banned apps with an explanation as to why they’re banned – most millennials simply aren’t aware of the risk a rogue app can pose, and providing a reasonable explanation could help change their behavior.
* Note: Be sure to work with your software licensing specialist(s) to ensure you are complying with the terms of your software license agreements when you allow employees to connect remotely to corporate applications and systems.
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Social Connection – Millennials Advocate on Social Media
Millennials are all over social media. According to a study by Weber Shandwick, more than 50 percent of employees represent their brand online, the vast majority of whom are millennials. They frequently share content developed by the business, industry news, and company updates with their networks.
How this is an IT issue? Good question.
When millennials take to social media to express themselves, they’re also using social media to communicate with coworkers. For instance, my coworkers head to various industry roadshows and they post what they’re learning on Twitter or LinkedIn, especially when it’s related to Cherwell. Once it’s posted, several other coworkers—and sometimes a customer or two—will join the conversation. Information is being gathered and shared to the market in real time. But speed comes with risk.
If your workers represent the company, even in an unofficial way, and someone’s account gets hacked, you could have a corporate security issue on hand. What if the hacker starts posting inaccurate representations of your company or inappropriate content?
How can you learn from millennials’ use of social media to improve your speed as an IT organization, while still maintaining a high level of security?
- Educate your employees about the risks associated with each channel. For instance, Twitter has a phishing problem and Facebook has a scamming problem.
- Provide your users ‘how to’ guides for recovering social media accounts in case these accounts are hacked. Preparing beforehand helps reduce your users’ loss of productivity.
- Embrace social media as an IT department or service desk, so workers can interact with IT using channels they’re familiar with.
Speed – Millennials Act Quickly
Most millennials don’t know a world without instant access to almost all of humankind’s information at the push of a button. As a result, millennials pursue methods of instant gratification – in this case, methods for obtaining information.
A recent article from Glassdoor states, “Millennials are growing up in a world where speed and deadlines are consistent in every experience. ‘Everything now has a deadline and time constraint, and they want to get more done. A lot of times they are judged on how much they produce,’ says Nations.”
How can you support the need… the need for speed?
- Be agile and able to adapt to changing business requirements. The more millennials become influencers in the business, the more quickly IT will be expected to fulfilled demands.
- Use flexible and modern technologies to enhance your speed rather than detract from it – legacy approaches to software development and technical enablement will inhibit your ability to move quickly.
- Empower users to support themselves on their own watches. Focus on the IT self-service portal as the primary and preferred means of delivering support.
IT clearly has their work cut out for them, but if your organization incorporates some of these ideas, you’ll gain a huge competitive advantage over other businesses that haven’t yet awakened to the opportunities brought about by the demands of the millennial workforce.
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