Firms have got to get their heads around the challenges of employing generation Y staff, those that were born after the early 1980s.
Unlike the baby boomers born after the war and the generation X that followed, generation Y don't see work as a way of life, they see work as a tool to allow them to live the life they want.
This HP Whitepaper explains how the cloud can help companies manage the needs of generation Y for the benefit of their organisation.
Generation Y staff want good holidays and long sabbaticals to allow them to travel. They want a true work/life balance using flexible working, home working and mobile working - that can be squeezed in between their real priority of enjoying social pursuits outside the office.
Firms failing to address these needs will find generation Y staff becoming restless and more willing to look for alternative employment that can deliver the lifestyle that is important to them.
Although the recession may have tapered the demands of generation Y - like everyone else many of them may have just been happy to have a job at the height of the downturn - their true aspirations may become more apparent as we see an economic recovery.
Technology and generation Y
Technology, and specifically the cloud, can play an important part in satisfying the needs of generation Y. The Y generation don't want to be tied down to a limited suite of corporate software applications and gadgets, they want to have a say on what tools they can use to do their job. And that can include using their own stuff hosted in the cloud.
Ten years ago, when senior IT staff were king when it came to deciding what could and could not be used in the workplace for storing and accessing corporate data, the Y generation were already getting excited about the wider possibilities. Then, the Y generation were looking at the likes of feature rich webmail hosted in the cloud and the first smartphones supported by large numbers of cloud-based applications.
Generation Y recruits will now ask, "Why use a limited storage corporate Microsoft Outlook email account, when I can use unlimited storage email like Google's Gmail, which also has the familiar interface I use when doing my personal stuff?"
This is one reason an increasing number of organisations are adopting cloud-based email and desktop productivity services such as Microsoft Office 365 and Google Apps.
Such services offer unlimited storage and access from any device connected to the internet.
Generation Y will also ask, "Why carry a bog standard business mobile when I can play around with my own top-of-the-range iPhone or Samsung Galaxy, for instance?"
Companies that have already adopted bring your own device (BYOD) policies, to support the use of private devices on corporate networks, have already gone some way to supporting the needs of generation Y, but many haven't or have limited the number of business applications that can be run on personal devices.
The cloud and BYOD are complementary as BYOD policies configured over the cloud to deliver consistent deployments and the required security features can potentially save money and meet the needs of generation Y.
Addressing security concerns
Add in Facebook and Twitter for the ability to keep in touch at any time and you have the full spread of issues that firms must address when it comes to managing the risks of a new generation of employees.
Their expectations of corporate IT is set by consumer technology, and all too often business systems have failed to match up. So what do firms have to do to tackle the phenomenon of the Y generation and the accompanying dangers?
The Y generation, who have been sharing their life on cloud-based social networks since they began carrying their own gadgets, are obviously causing concern in the enterprise. If generation Y struggle to keep personal information private or don't care whether they do or not, can they be trusted with sensitive business data?
The answer should be "yes", but only if IT departments or those responsible for data security can provide solid usage policies, education, and systems that help control what corporate data can and cannot be put on social media sites and personal gadgets.
Data access security systems and data encryption can play an important role here, in addition to common sense being used on the part of generation Y staff.
On a practical level, where mobile gadgets are concerned, and to offer greater re-assurance around BYOD, many of the major smartphone suppliers offer data security technologies which allow personal and business data to be separated and protected in different ways on the same device.
Curtailing web access
Firms could of course just restrict or ban corporate access to certain cloud-based web services for communicating in the workplace. But such a draconian approach will probably affect overall productivity and will cause bad feeling - even though IT business analysts like IDC have estimated that at least 40 percent of web access in the workplace isn't even work related.
The added problem of reducing personal web services access could be that business rivals down the road will almost certainly not follow your move, meaning some of your best talent seeing an alternative and more relaxed working environment on offer instead.
Whether employers like it or not, the Y generation will continue to be a large portion of the working population as birth rates stagnate and the number of retirees increases.
So firms will have to tailor the structure of their organisations to cope with the presence of the Y generation, and use the flexible working opportunities delivered by the cloud to do it.
How to manage the Y generation
Firms should consider flexible working, remote and mobile working, and support the technology that the Y generation use in their personal lives.
Mentors are also needed to show what is expected of them professionally, including how they fit into the corporate structure. IT departments can play an important role in showing how the roles of generation Y staff support both business and IT strategies - which are increasingly consumer based.
Generation X staff were expected to either hit the ground running or to work things out by themselves. Generation Y staff have generally been more cossetted through school and in the home - the emphasis of the environment they have lived in has been one of inclusiveness, and of being encouraged and praised.
More management time therefore needs to be invested in getting the best out of generation Y, and that includes plenty of feedback and re-assurance.
Generation Y staff don't enjoy being lectured or being given textbook theories, but they do enjoy team-based training that allows them to express themselves and make mistakes in a safe environment, without being strongly criticised.
They need to be taught professional communication expectations. When is it right to use face-to-face meetings, the right time to use the phone, or the best occasion to use email, phone texts, instant messaging or social media like Facebook or Twitter? This has to be in the context of data retention and data compliance requirements, as well as working to the practical needs of their jobs.
After all these areas are addressed, organisations can feel more confident about supporting the cloud-based needs of generation Y.