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The ‘App Generation’: Workers of the future and the future of work

Mary Good
app generation

The ‘App Generation’ is the first to have grown up in a world of digital media and mobile technology. For teenagers today, the solution to virtually every problem and answer to almost every question can be found with a few taps of their smartphone. Contributor Mary Good, Chief People Officer – Fuze.

This group of young, tech-savvy employees will soon be joining the workforce, bringing with them fresh viewpoints, the latest digital preferences, demands and expectations. These new diverse teams will mean businesses need to meet a new set of expectations for working styles, environments and processes. But how should companies go about appealing to younger workers while continuing to keep the other four generations in their current workforce happy?

Provide consumer experiences in the workplace
Today’s teens are renowned for being up-to-date with the latest and greatest apps, gadgets and technology. As such, they are accustomed to, and expect, consumer-like experiences in their day-to-day lives and will continue to demand this in their working lives too. Our research, which was carried out among 2,500 15 to 18 year olds, backs up this theory. In fact, three-quarters (75 percent) of the app generation want to be able to use the very latest technology at work.

As this new generation enters the workforce, those companies still relying on legacy communication tools, which younger generations view as ‘outdated’, will have to contend with this potential impact on employee satisfaction, talent retention, and their ability to attract younger staff.  At the same time, managing the onboarding of new tools and technologies requires a sophisticated, customized approach vs. a “one size fits all”.

HR teams must re-consider recruitment and retention strategies. Working processes, environments and technology must all evolve to suit the diverse requirements of multi-generational workforces.

Businesses that fail to step up could face dissatisfied staff looking elsewhere for employment in companies where cutting-edge technology is in place. Not delivering current technology is also a security risk, with employees downloading and installing their own, unapproved apps for communication or collaboration. To avoid this, businesses must offer all staff streamlined tools which work in the same user-friendly way that consumer tech does.

Allow flexible working for everyone
Flexibility in how, where and when we work is a growing trend among the current workforce, but it’s also a key consideration for the app gen when deciding where to work. Our research shows that 78 percent of teens want to have the option to work from home and 48 percent even said they’d happily work from their beds! Many businesses still have doubts and concerns about allowing unsupervised, remote working. So, how can companies keep workers happy while ensuring staff are working just as effectively outside of a traditional office environment?

In the UK, remote work is now legislatively an option.  Given the appeal of home working among teens, it’s likely they will want to benefit from this legislation. However, when it comes to flexible work options, having the right technology in place becomes even more critical.

A significant 90 percent of UK workers say they could work effectively from any location as long as they are given the right technology to do so. In order to make this happen and keep office and remote workers contented, businesses must offer tools that can seamlessly enable communication from anywhere. Having such tools in place enables managers and business owners to recruit and retain talented employees, while facilitating efficient just-in-time communication with employees no matter their location.

Focus on adoption
We’ve already established that providing the right tools will improve the working environment for employees and business leaders. However, it’s important for companies to remember that, while getting the right tools in place is important, ultimately, the people using these tools are central to the success of any technology.

When investing in and deploying new IT solutions, the user benefits and experience should be a top priority. Strategies should be driven from the top, with senior team members embracing new technologies as early adopters. This will encourage the entire workforce to follow suit.

Without a focus on adoption, many businesses will find themselves faced with a disjointed approach to deployment and a less than optimal solution.

Create the right culture
In order to create a people-centric culture, the atmosphere must encourage collaborative working and open communication. This is also something management can champion. By advocating a feeling of openness, business leaders can create a motivational environment where employees feel confident sharing ideas and comfortable receiving feedback.

In our social lives, virtual correspondence with friends and family is now the ‘norm’ and we can contact anyone instantly from anywhere. As such, being constantly connected to colleagues is expected and communications technology has a key role to play in uniting a global and geographically dispersed employee population.  Many companies are focused on breaking down organizational silos and building cross-company collaboration to drive high performance. These new communications tools can aid in that effort.

Companies must provide not only a mind-set of collaboration throughout the organisation, but technology which matches this ethos. HR teams must work with IT teams to build a collaborative company culture where all people, no matter their backgrounds or life experiences feel respected, trusted and informed while being given the tools and the motivation to get involved and, ultimately, to grow. As the workforce diversifies and transforms, this approach will future-proof companies and help workers to bond via a shared philosophy and culture.

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