Making way for Generation Y

Those born in the early 1990s are generally referred to as Generation Y and are now into their early to mid-20s, meaning many are entering the professional workforce.

A large proportion of Generation Y have grown up in a post-Internet age, referring to the two decades after the Internet reached a critical mass, during which time digital technology has amassed huge adoption.

As such, they expect to be connected 24/7. They are digital natives, who don’t know what world was like before Google or before Amazon. Show them a fax machine, and you’ll probably get a blank expression. Hand them an iPhone, and watch their thumbs light up.

As this generation enters the workforce, they may be surprised that not everyone has kept pace with the digital revolution. The rate of technological change over the past number of years has meant that companies have found it difficult to keep up.

Naturally, some have coped better than others.

Those that have struggled are now faced with the prospect of attracting and retaining a workforce for whom digital is everything. If the digital needs of Generation Y aren’t catered for, they will look for work elsewhere.

High staff churn can have a significant impact on a business as the cost of onboarding, training and replacing staff can be high. When employees measure their tenure in months, not years, each employee results in a large expense for the organisation.

In order to limit the impact, businesses need to transform in a way that meets the expectations of these digital natives. According to research by Cisco, Generation Y are not prepared to work with cumbersome, legacy, paper-based processes, with a third prioritising social media freedom, device flexibility and mobility over salary.

Instead, they are looking to work for companies that offer them flexibility around how they work, where they work and when they work.

For those organisations that offer the tools and technologies that Generation Y is looking for, these workers can help boost the business. Cisco's research reveals that more than four in ten Generation Y professionals consider themselves to be a 'supertasker', able to do more than two things at once, and do them well.

This makes them more productive. The flexibility they demand also works both ways as the majority typically mix work and personal activities – making them more attuned to the always-on lifestyle and more likely to work at odd hours if required.

Enabling the kind of workplace that is attractive to Generation Y requires an interconnected, secure mobile strategy as part of the necessary tools and technologies to equip this generation with the flexibility and mobility they desire. This includes allowing employees to work remotely, supported not just by mobile devices, but also through automated workflows, digitalised processes and social communication platforms.

When mobile computing becomes pervasive, users don’t even view it as computing. For Gen Y it's simply a state of always-on, barrier-free connectedness that entertains, enlightens and helps them get work done – even without having to physically enter the office environment.

From this position, businesses can ensure they hire the best talent, get the most from them and retain these engaged individuals.

Danny Molhoek, general manager of Lexmark UK & Ireland.