Millennials make up more than one third of the workforce today, and they are changing the way we work. How many articles have you read about millennials’ demands for connectivity, collaboration, transparency and work/life balance? Often, the media uses a negative tone, and millennials get cited as unproductive, distracted and lazy—usually mentioning how they treat their mobile devices as distracting appendages.
Before you jump on the millennial-bashing train, have you noticed how much more connected we all are nowadays? Do you find yourself logging on to a new website or app every day? What about at work—we’re not just using Microsoft Word and Excel anymore.
I’ve seen you with those deer-in-the-headlights looks trying to keep up. Today, it’s common to have an expense app, a timesheet app, a customer management app, a project management app, multiple communications apps, multiple writing and spreadsheet apps, social apps and we’re flipping between them all the time. What has this world come to?
I’ll tell you what: Connectivity, information, data, global awareness. All of which are enabled by technology. The Internet is what really created the millennial. And I like it. Technology gives me immediate information to make decisions.
This technology shift is driving businesses to evolve. A smartphone is an express ticket for business development, banking, social interaction, written and video communication, entertainment, shopping, movies and more.
This train only runs in one direction, so get on board and buckle up. Whether it’s monitoring your children’s social media, sending allowance to college students or being part of a business enterprise, we’re all on the technology ride of our life.
The fact of the matter is millennials are showing us the way. The things we complain about with millennials are actually issues for all of us today, and what we’re really talking about are switching costs.
In a traditional economic sense, we think of switching cost as the time and resources required to move from one vendor to another. Today, we all waste time as we switch from tool to tool throughout the day.
As consumers, we bank, shop, reserve restaurants online, we do our finances online. We make our travel reservations, review doctors, and stay connected to friends and family. Could you imagine going through the day without an Internet connection? I think not.
But we don’t have interconnected systems. We are all using software and the internet on multiple devices every day. I just counted more than 12 critical daily software applications that I need to function in business.
My software routine is pretty common these days. We are all trying to multitask, switching from phone to tablet to computer, and between multiple applications, most of which we have to log into with a unique username and password.
Some applications have more functions than others, but I don’t know many people who work in one central system that houses all the operations for a business. Even worse, most of the software solutions we count on today don’t have the ability to securely send and receive information on all devices. Healthcare calls this capability interoperability, and it’s not particularly common (in healthcare or any other industry).
The lack of secure interoperability affects businesses from mom-and-pop corner shops all the way up to huge corporate enterprises. The productivity and cognitive switching costs are burdening every business you know.
What can we do? First, I’m sticking up for millennials. We can’t blame them for these productivity issues; they’re just responding to modern technology and its challenges. We have to own that these are issues we all face.
Second, many businesses can benefit from custom development to integrate some of the separate platforms they use today. There may be a way to pass information back and forth securely from your inventory program to your accounting program to your customer management program, and with a little investment, you may reap big productivity rewards (never mind more accurate data).
Finally, keep pushing. Engage with your tech-savviest employees and ask them to lead your organization in finding better ways to manage productivity with for better technology and better business results. Technology and Millennials drive the innovation train.