Millennials have very different expectations when it comes to technology in the workplace

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Long gone are the days when managers had to fret about hiring millennials – now, they’re out in force, taking on their own senior management positions, and shaping the way companies need to operate.

One of the biggest impacts they’re having is on business’ technology needs – and it’s both a challenge and an opportunity.

Flexibility is an expectation, not a perk

Because millennials grew up with technology in their pockets, constantly connected to the World Wide Web, the thought of doing a 9-5 workday on one machine is unheard of.

Unlike their parent’s generation, there’s no ‘clocking on’ and ‘clocking off’, because they’re always connected to at least one device.

While this is a positive for employers because it has the potential to increase an employee’s input, it also means there’s an expectation that the company will provide all equipment necessary to do a role from anywhere.

This could mean mobile phones instead of desk phones, laptops instead of desktops, and cloud-based software systems with remote access.

But Chris Brycki, founder and CEO of Stockspot, said the needs of millennials are having a huge impact on high growth businesses – for the better.

“Call it the deformalisation of the workplace if you like, millennials are reducing pointless rigidity,” Brycki said.

Flexibility has also proven to increase employee loyalty, and create opportunities for people that can’t always stick to an office schedule.

Mike Tozer, founder and CEO of Xceptional, a technology services company that places people living with autism in strength-based roles, said some of his employees struggle with public transport so remote access allows them to work from a comfortable environment.

“At Xceptional, we recruit employees who can do the job based on their cognitive abilities… Fortuitously, IT companies in particular are realising how effective it can be to have some of these talented people in their workforce,” Tozer said at Xceptional’s Sydney launch event.

When it comes to flexibility, Tozer said technology isn’t an issue.

“My phone runs better than my desktop for a lot of things… all of our systems were designed for our people to work from anywhere.”

Customisation isn’t seen as a challenge – it’s “normal”

Mike Spencer, founder and CEO of ONTHEGO, a global custom sports apparel e-commerce company, said millennials are challenging old methods of business delivery and employee training.

“The internet has created a global marketplace where everything is accessible,” Spencer told Business Insider.

“Along with changes in supply, millennials are changing demand too, pushing for increased customisation, amongst other things. We can now have what we want in the colours, shapes and sizes we want without having to have the same as everyone else.”

Spencer said this need for customisation has carried over to employment.

“The internet has enabled unrivalled access to training materials, meaning that self education is more popular than ever.

“The changes we’ve seen in recent times will only become more prevalent as millennials begin to assume CEO (and CFO) responsibilities at some of the world’s biggest companies, with greater flexibility around work patterns, more efficient workforces and most importantly, the rise and rise of the internet of things.”

As the use of artificial intelligence becomes more mainstream, mostly through virtual assistants, millennials are also customising their apps, social media, platforms use and technology to suit their work, as much as their personal life.

The way millennials use technology across their professional and private life does create two issues for employers. The first is privacy and security.

Having strong, up-to-date cyber-security systems on work devices is paramount – but in order to run the best security systems, devices also need to be powerful.

This presents a second issue – keeping up with new technology. Smartphone manufacturers produce a new phone model every 12 months, but this kind of hardware turnover is unreasonable for any sizable workforce.

Therefore, keeping the software both resilient and modern, yet unobtrusive to the device user is a constant struggle.

There are no borders or barriers, just information

Anthony Mitchell, co-founder and Chief Potential Officer of Australian consultancy Bendelta, said that contrary to popular belief, millennials don’t ask fewer questions than previous generations, but they do expect to get information instantaneously.

“Millennials do ask more questions and want more information,” Mitchell said.

“They’ve grown up knowing that the world’s information is available to them on their phone, so they want ‘informational equality’.”

Having global access to information has also impacted their view of the world.

Western Union recently surveyed over 10,000 millennials across 15 countries for a study on millennials’ beliefs, hopes and aspirations for the future and the world they wish to shape for themselves and others.

The study found 87 per cent of Australian millennials agree that “the future requires direct contribution/decision making from individuals using technology on matters of global and national significance.”

Tony Wu, the co-founder of Weploy, believes this attitude towards technology and human potential will make the millennial generation better managers.

“It’s with this sense of fearlessness paired with technology that gives us a greater opportunity to be better CEO’s than the previous generations,” Wu said.

“We’re now able to make decisions based around data and insights, instead of gut and pure experience.”

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