Millennials in the workplace is one of the most popular topics among employers across the world. This is not surprising as there are almost seventeen million millennials in the UK, making up over a quarter of the total population and coming second in numbers only to the baby boomer generation.
There is a common misconception that mobile and digital employees are strictly “Millennials.” The reality is most business personnel are fluent with mobile and digital technology, for both personal and professional use. The experienced workforce actually appreciates these tools more, because they know what it was like before.
When we interact, we’re very digital. Using Statista data, coupled with Pew Research Centre figures showing that 92% of American millennials own a smartphone, we can estimate around 92-95% of millennials in the UK have a smartphone. Employers have begun to leverage that connectivity in the workplace. The biggest challenge, however, is that many companies implement tools and technology that don’t match how and why people want to use it. Too many companies focus on the technology itself, not the goals and outcomes of its use. For example, we’ve seen many companies build a new intranet or collaborative space, only to have them ignored by employees. Or worse, people feel overwhelmed by the “always-on” nature of current tools like email and instant messages, and are hesitant to add new tools in the workplace. The “professional” technology must reflect the architecture and design of the “personal” technology to ensure employees focus on the message instead of the medium.
Mindset and culture change is critical. Companies must have the mindset to make the necessary changes to their strategy, governance, structure, and historic approach in order to engage today’s digital employee. Remember to be patient. Not everyone is going to be comfortable at first. Many will be hesitant. Creating a supportive environment is crucial to adoption. And don’t underestimate the power of executives to spur culture change. Senior leaders must serve as role models and use digital tools themselves.
The benefits and outcomes of digital tools must be communicated to employees on a consistent basis, and rewards and recognition work well to increase engagement. When done right, the tools will improve productivity, morale, and overall engagement.
Below are some examples of how to transform organisational behaviour by embracing digital tools.
Announcements get a video makeover
In large organisations, announcements are commonly sent via email. Whether it’s to announce new appointments, changes to HR benefits, or client wins, most companies use text-based email to share information with employees easily. Often the announcements get buried in all the day’s email, or at best an employee may skim the headline.
If you want to communicate with employees, why not make a short video instead? It’s much more engaging and appealing to the recipient, especially if you get creative. The videos can be embedded into emails or shared on corporate websites. You can allow comments and questions to spur interactivity, and make it more fun and appealing to the people in your organisation. They don’t need to be Hollywood quality, either. Announcements are meant to convey information, and interesting video storytelling will be more likely to spur conversation and get people to pay attention.
Be informal with a decentralised workforce
In the corporate world, flexible work environments are fast becoming the norm. In addition, global companies often have multiple global offices, making it hard for team members to meet face to face. A bigger remote and decentralised workforce means the need for more digital collaboration and videoconferencing tools. Even quick team calls can benefit from using video. It adds a different dynamic when you see, not just hear, your team members during a meeting. You can assess non-verbal cues and body language, and get close as possible to an ideal face-to-face meeting.
The idea of videoconferencing is unsettling for many people, especially those who work from home in informal business attire (i.e., tracksuits and t-shirts), have a messy office, or don’t like how they look on a webcam. What’s important to convey in these cases is that it’s not about what you look like, it’s about the content of the meeting and the collaboration that can occur naturally when the team members see one another. It’s ok to be casual. It’s ok if your dog barks in the background or a noise is heard in the distance. Remember the rule that employees are ‘people,’ not just employees, and the benefits of video team meetings will outweigh the concerns.
Make it a game
Gamification is a big catchphrase these days. It means applying game mechanics to certain activities to drive real-world behaviour change. Applying ‘behaviour-reward’ thinking within an organisation is a great opportunity for internal interactions. People naturally want to achieve and compete, so gamification combines personal motivations with company goals and values at the base.
Game mechanics can easily be applied in the workplace in many ways. For example, most employees must complete different compliance tests and activities. Firms can award achievement levels and badges for quick completion or top scores, which can be published to all employees. So instead of simply getting it done, employees will want to win, which means finishing correctly and quickly. If you add value to the content, people will be more likely to engage and interact.
Some companies are hesitant to offer digital tools for employees, for fear they will spend more time online playing games and surfing the Web than on workplace productivity. That fear is unfounded today. If someone wants to be unproductive, they will find ways to do it, digital or otherwise. Meanwhile, digital and mobile tools have so much potential to create a better engaged workplace. Limiting tools and access ends up negatively affecting morale and productivity.
In an increasingly competitive and global marketplace, it is becoming more important for companies of all ages and sizes to identify and act on moments that matter. Technology, data, and human resources all have roles to play.