Embracing Technology-Savvy Millennials in the Workplace

RCS Influencer Alison LaValley says that Millennials and their technological penchants are having a profound impact on the workplace.

Some say you can identify a generation by the technology that upended the workplace on “their watch.” And, if this statement proves true:

  • Baby Boomers were rocked by the electronic calculator and later the personal computer and fax machine.
  • For Generation X, it was email and online services.
  • And now, for Millennials, who are swiftly becoming the predominant demographic in the U.S. labor force, it’s the smartphone and mobile apps.

A survey of 1,000 Millennials conducted by Microsoft in partnership with SurveyMonkey, showed that 93 percent cited modern and up-to-date technology as one of the most important aspects of a workplace to attract and retain Millennial talent.

The Microsoft survey identified four secrets to helping Millennials thrive in the workplace, including:

  • Creating a culture of collaboration
  • Offering (and embracing … yes, there is a difference) the latest technology
  • Keeping data safe
  • Having a strong purpose

According to another study of Millennials from 75 countries entitled “Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace,” commissioned by the Pew Research Center, this generation expects technology in the workplace to be a catalyst for innovation, as well as a major avenue of communication on the job. In fact:

  • 59 percent surveyed said an employer’s provision of state-of-the art technology was important to them when considering a job
  • 78 percent said access to the technology they like to use makes them more effective at work
  • 41 percent of those questioned said they would rather communicate electronically than face-to-face or over the telephone

The bottom line? Millennials and their technological penchants are having a profound impact on the workplace. And that fact permeates and colors nearly everything – including where and how they work. But, I think you knew that anyway. The question is, what are you doing about it in your roofing business today … to prepare for tomorrow. And when I refer to tomorrow you know I really mean today, right … as in this year … not tomorrow as in the future?

Let me give you an example: I recently read a New York Times article that predicts that in an environment where transparency and collaboration are key, which Millennials crave, email may finally have been dealt a death blow—to be replaced by offerings such as Slack.

Have you even heard of this new technology platform? If not, there’s time, but it’s getting away from all of us, including me, a borderline Gen X/Baby Boomer who is trying to adapt and stay ahead of the technology curve.

Luckily, I didn’t have to only rely on this article to understand the importance and emergence of Slack as one of the fastest growing business applications in history because I have had the opportunity to be involved with progressive groups such as the Roofing Technology Think Tank or RT3 for short. RT3 explores emerging technology solutions to broaden the minds and opportunities available to the roofing industry, and they use Slack to communicate with its members.

Slack bears a resemblance to AOL Instant Messenger. However, it adds additional useful functions for the business world such as automatic archiving of all interactions, a solid search engine and the ability to work across multiple devices. In addition, Slack is very customizable. Those paying close attention will note that many of the features making Slack so popular – collaboration, customization, instant communication – are features Millennials are known for championing. Since its launch a few years ago, Slack has become a partial replacement in the workplace for email and face-to-face meetings.

Another workplace shift tied to the Millennial desire for transparency and love of instant feedback involves managers using productivity apps to measure how employees are performing in real time, instantly establishing new goals, praising accomplishments and rectifying mistakes. And, still other apps allow for everything from scheduling a meeting to submitting expense receipts. Companies also are accommodating Millennials by actively encouraging business-focused use of social media at work or offering a choice of smartphones as an employee benefit.

It may sound overstated, but the fact is that Millennials are critical to the future success of businesses far and wide. Their career aspirations, attitudes about work, and knowledge of new technologies will define the culture of the 21st century workplace. So, yes, Millennials and their smartphones have arrived.

As one Millennial commented in the New York Times article mentioned above, mobile technology is the generation’s lifeblood. The bonus for the roofing industry and its owners is that technologies borne of the millennial mindset will likely give us all flexibility, agility and mobility. So, let’s all embrace it and them … and let’s do it starting today.

Alison L. LaValley, CAE, serves as Vice President of Strategic Partnerships and Development for the National Roofing Contractors Association (NRCA), as well as Executive Director for the National Roofing Legal Resource Center (RNRLC). See her full bio here.

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