A lesson for businesses on attracting the App Generation
By Mary Good, Chief People Officer, Fuze
April 24 2018 - The latest generation of young adults have grown up with an app for everything. Mobile technology is no longer just 'nice to have,' but is rather an ingrained part of everyday life - both at home, and at work. Just look at what happens the minute wheels touch the ground on the tarmac at an airport. Watch people as they are waiting for a movie to start or get their early morning coffee.
With this new 'app generation' already starting to enter the world of work, businesses must prepare for a whole host of new expectations and digital preferences. For some businesses, this generation is viewed as an unknown, with new demands seen as a catalyst for greater expenditure on IT and business technologies.
Yet for forward-looking organisations, the app generation offers an opportunity to attract the latest tech-savvy talent and gain a fresh perspective to re-think the way the business works.
But how should businesses go about attracting talent from this new generation, while meeting the demands and requirements of current workers? There will soon be five distinct generations working together, all with different styles and preferences for communication and collaboration.
The 'work from anywhere' expectation
Research carried out by Fuze among 2,500 15 to 18 year olds highlights the importance the app generation places on being given flexibility over how and when they work. With 49% of teens not wanting to be tied to a conventional 'nine to five' job, flexibility must be a key aspect of working life to attract the workforce of the future. The good news here is that people at all stages of life benefit from flexibility in terms of hours, work location, and communication preferences (texting, email, chat, video).
Creating flexibility in communications preferences, work locations, and working time provisions will position companies to seize the attention of the app generation, and soon these practices will be table stakes for employers seeking to hire top talent. Our newest and brightest engineers can't imagine being told what to wear, or what time they need to "report to work." Companies that don't adapt will find themselves bereft of talent. More importantly, with employees at every stage of life benefitting from greater flexibility, workplace adoption of new approaches should not be met with much resistance. New parents, adults dealing with aging family members, early stage career professionals pursuing further education, and even those looking at retirement will all value these approaches and embrace their adoption.
Evolving the company culture
Across the board, employees want to be given new opportunities to learn and cultivate their skills. Flattening traditional workplace hierarchies can bring leaders closer to their employees, and provide for greater innovation by breaking down silos and communication barriers. By championing a culture of openness, business leaders can create a highly-motivational environment where employees are not only confident about sharing ideas, but also trust the information they receive from their senior leaders. It's an approach that will position organisations for success, binding the workforce through a common ethos regardless of where employees are located or who they collaborate with most often.
Re-imaging the office environment
It may seem that younger generations are solely engrossed in hand-held technology. Perhaps surprisingly, Fuze research shows that 70% consider face-to-face interactions as an important aspect of working well with others.
The physical office looks like it's here to stay, for now, but the arrival of the app generation will drive its continuous evolution. Two-thirds of teens value being part of a team, so a collegial learning environment is essential for making this generation feel trusted, respected and involved. Workspaces that encourage collaboration between employees at all levels will also foster open communication and empower younger workers.
An overhaul of the traditional office space is long overdue. To reflect the increasingly fluid nature of the workforce, companies need to provide spaces that allow for open conversations, casual meetings, and collective brainstorming. A mix of 'break out' areas, comfortable seating, whiteboards, and conventional desks or workstations, will help to engineer more opportunities for innovation, creativity, and engagement. Though the open space concept has many benefits, quiet, reflective, and private spaces are still necessary for creating a workplace conducive to break-through results.
While these changes may seem daunting to those of us who grew up in a more traditional work environment, the empowerment and positive impact on productivity and engagement can't be underestimated. Embracing the app generation will be a competitive differentiator in the years ahead and those companies that adapt now will benefit for many years to come.