Millennials and Generation Z: Shaping the Digital Workspace

According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in three American workers are millennials. And in just four years, millennials will account for nearly half the total global workforce.

According to the Pew Research Center, more than one in three American workers are millennials. And in just four years, millennials will account for nearly half the total global workforce.

Comprising those born between 1980 and the mid-1990s, millennials are not only the largest demographic in the multi-generational workforce, they are also the first to grow up surrounded by digital technology—smartphones, broadband services, and social media. As a result, millennials are driving the digital transformation of the workplace: a revolution fueled largely by the demand for workplace technology that mirrors the mobility of their personal lives and the simplicity of consumer technology.

The First Digitally Native Generation

Millennials use technology differently than other generations, and in fact expect to have the same kind of experience at work as they do in their personal lives. This expectation is so high that more than 40 % of millennials say they will not work for an organization that doesn’t offer them the freedom and flexibility of a digital workspace: a feeling shared by only 22 percent of workers from other generations.

Despite these trends, however, enterprises have been slow to adopt the kinds of digital workspace strategies that enhance employee engagement. “All too often, corporations fall into the rut of being so business-driven, pragmatic, and practical that we don’t take the time to dream,” VMware and Dell Technologies CIO, Bask Iyer, says. “Now is the time for enterprise mobility to break through with creativity, context, and the use of artificial intelligence.”

Shaping the Future

By the year 2020, Generation Z will join millennials as the next largest generation in the current workforce. Some 30 million strong, this generation, born between the late-1990s and early 2000s, shares with millennials the fact that they are digital natives. But in many respects, they differ from millennials in their expectations of workplace technology.

Sometimes referred to as the iGeneration, or iGen, they have been growing up with digital devices from birth. As a result, Generation Z is incredibly adept at multitasking and may process information faster than any prior generation. They are characterized as constantly consuming digital content across a broad array of devices, often simultaneously.

Their preference for online communication and collaboration, and corresponding reluctance to communicate by phone or face-to-face, is already influencing collaboration platforms such as Basecamp, Slack, Kickstarter, and Indiegogo. Concision may take on a whole new meaning for digital workspace applications designed for this generation that has an average attention span, some researchers estimate, of eight seconds.

While millennials are shaping the digital workspace today, Gen Z will play an increasingly assertive role shaping the contours of that technology in the near future.

Engagement and the Digital Workspace

Together, millennials and Gen Zers are demanding the opportunity to collaborate using secure, interactive, flexible software that allows them to work from anywhere, anytime, on any device. Indeed, one in three millennials, and nearly half of all Gen Zers say they would prioritize a job offer that gives them this mobility, freedom, and flexibility.

A growing body of existing research—including this Economist Intelligence Unit report on mobility, performance, and engagement—demonstrates that employee engagement is critical to workplace satisfaction, productivity, and bottom line profits. Organizations indicating more than 7 in 10 employees are engaged saw a 4% increase in sales growth and shareholder return compared to companies showing average engagement. Even a relatively modest 5% increase in employee engagement saw, on average, a 3% increase in revenue growth the following year.

For millennials and the members of the emerging Generation Z, this data is particularly relevant. The enterprise is tasked with providing both generations the digital workspace technology that will improve employee experience to meet their differing expectations and preferences. “Those responsible for digital transformation should focus on people, process, and technology,” Iyer concludes. “Starting with people is key. Find the talent who can co-exist with your existing workforce while growing and bringing new ideas to the table.”

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