The study is based on research among 1,600 business executives across 16 countries, with more than 260 responses from the UK. Although the vast majority believe they are fully supporting new technology-fluent graduates entering the workplace (referred to by Forrester Consulting as ‘The Millennials’), the research tells a very different story.
According to Xerox, the research suggests that companies have been good at making HR changes that most managers can relate to easily – such as flexible working. Problems occur where the changes needed require adapting to a way of working that has only been made possible by new technologies in the last decade.
The study shows, for example, that a surprisingly high percentage of UK companies allow employees to work away from the office occasionally (82 percent) and to work flexible hours (74 percent). However, few organisations provide the Millennial-friendly tools needed to support remote working, unless these tools are very established and already part of most people’s experience as a consumer. The mobile phone and laptop are the only mobile technologies that many companies provide, with just a small minority equipping workers with tools such as PDAs (11 percent) and mobile email devices (14 percent).
A similar story emerges when it comes to work styles and infrastructure inside the office. Browser-based portals (70 percent) and unrestricted paper printing are the resource that most workers have access to (68 percent). However, a mere 2 percent of respondents say their companies provide MP3/4 players and only 27 percent have access to webcasts.
Russell Peacock, Managing Director, Xerox UK says: “Businesses that fail to address what are now basic needs for a workforce in an always online, information-rich society will be disadvantaged. They will struggle to keep new graduates and to understand the needs of coming generations of partners and customers.
“One of the main reasons why few companies have succeeded in making their workplace Millennial-friendly is that a proportion of decision-makers haven’t grown up with blogs, webcasts, PDAs and so forth. These tools are all new to many of them and so they’re going to need time to adapt. To the Millennials they are simply a way of life – something they just use without even thinking about it. HR and training departments should ensure that all senior executives, regardless of age, get hands-on experience of using the tools most popular with Millennials. Just recognising the difference in work style and putting in place things that you would find beneficial yourself is not enough.”
The study suggests that companies take the following steps to address the changing workforce:
- Provide opportunities to "mess around" with new technologies. Millennials learn and make positive contributions by experimenting with new tools and suggesting ways they can contribute to the organisation.
- Deliver work experiences that involve collaboration. Group online games, discussion groups, communities of practice, etc. are good vehicles for acquiring skills and sharing knowledge. Encourage workers of all age groups to participate through age diversity training, goal setting, and rewards.
- Introduce new technologies quickly, but be aware of the human element. New technologies should be introduced as an enabler of more effective human interactions, and not to solve business process problems caused by people or organisational issues. In recognition of this, Xerox research experts analyse actual working practices to develop tools that fit around people’s working styles.
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