Millennials are about to take over the workforce. That much you already know. The part you may not be prepared for? These potential new hires are judging your company by its technology--and for many of you, that's not a good thing.
The younger generation of college grads have grown up using technology. They are more comfortable with Facebook and Twitter than any other age group. And, according to a recent survey by the IT trade association CompTIA, 67 percent of interviewees in that age group will judge a company by its tech prowess.
I spoke with Todd Thibodeaux, CompTIA's president and CEO, about what start-ups should know when hiring and working with tech-savvy millennials.
You say that millennials are judging potential employers by their technology. What exactly are they looking for?
In terms of device usage, our study found relative ubiquity across all generations of workers with regard to the mainstays of the workplace: desktop PCs (used in the past year by 79 percent of those surveys), printers (74 percent) and laptops (64 percent).
When asked about using a smartphone for work purposes, 74 percent of Gen Y workers said they did so in the last 12 months, compared with 37 percent of Baby Boomers. Workers in their 30s, 40s, and 50s were also slightly more likely than the youngest workers to use a landline telephone and/or a standard cell phone for work in the last year. In fact, just 6 percent of 20 something employees conducted business on a standard cell phone, illustrating just how pervasive and essential the smartphone has become.
So give them a smartphone if you can afford it. What else should companies know?
Millennials are confident in their technology skills. According to the survey, two-thirds say when it comes to the use of tech, they're either "cutting edge" or in the upper tier. By comparison, more than half of Baby Boomers (53 percent) place themselves in the middle tier when it comes to use of technology.
Among younger workers, nine out of 10 use Facebook, with 39 percent of 20-somethings and 36 percent of 30-something workers using the social network for both work and personal purposes. Just one in five Baby Boomers does so.
What's the key for keeping millennials engaged on the job?
Younger workers have grown up in an era where flexibility is the norm. This is reflected in their thinking that companies that do not offer a telecommuting option are old-fashioned. Previous CompTIA research found that 18 percent of companies allowed telecommuting for all employees and 43 percent for some positions. Forty-nine percent of respondents prefer to work in the office only three or four days a week.
Similarly, 36 percent of Gen Y workers feel that they currently do not have access to certain social tools that they need to do their jobs effectively. E-learning is especially appealing to Gen Y workers, who tend to want to be autonomous in how they choose to interact with technology, deciding their own pace and not being forced to interrupt normal workflow to "take the training."
What's a sure way to turn off a younger employee with technology?
Rigid, my-way-or-the-highway policies with regard to technology in the workplace is almost certain to be a turn-off for Gen Y workers--or workers of any age group for that matter.