As a generation, millennials are described in a lot of different ways. They're always on their phone, pursuing unconventional hobbies or spending too much time on social media. But at the latest cutting-edge businesses, millennials are known for something much more important: changing how companies approach technology for their employees.
As the first generation that’s grown up in a technology-filled world, millennials are digital natives who understand tech on a deep level. Here are some of the biggest ways millennials have changed tech in the workplace.
Chat programs shift the way millennials communicate.
For any millennial, chat programs were a formative part of their early years. With programs like AOL’s Instant Messenger and MSN Messenger, chat programs were a daily tool to find out what was happening with classmates and friends.
Similar chat tools are now a part of most offices. At many organizations, programs like Slack have become a vital part of their daily schedule. Utilizing chat windows and room just like the ones millennials grew up with, apps like Slack let employees and teams quickly chat to coordinate everything from daily assignments to lunch plans. Other services like Skype for business feature similar chat options that resemble classic instant messenger clients.
These tools have even carried over to other customer-facing areas. Chatbots (which are automated chat clients that are run by a computer instead of a human) have long been used by businesses for basic customer service help.
But thanks to the growth of artificial intelligence and machine learning, modern chatbots can do much more than older versions. Now, current chatbots can do everything from guiding candidates through job interviews to helping customers with product questions. Bots may be getting smarter, and that's because the next generations of millennial programmers are, too. They're figuring out how to build more complex chatbots all the time.
For businesses, chat tools offer a distinctly-millennial set of benefits. Chat tools are a perfect way to ask questions or have conversations that fall between needing an in-person talk or a phone call. Because they grew up with these services, millennial employees know how effectively they streamline team communication for both big and small questions.
Millennial tech is interactive and on-demand.
Pick any baby boomer-populated office from the early 2000s, and you’d likely see a typical hardware setup: rows of desktop computers, printers and maybe the occasional projector rig. But today, an office like this would raise young employees’ eyebrows.
“Companies that do not invest in technology look like dinosaurs to potential employees,” Perryn Olson, vice chief information officer at My IT, said. “Utilizing old technology makes it look like the company does not invest in their employees, which is a turn off for many millennials.”
Millennial tech isn’t simply limited to the latest shiny new gadgets, though. Younger workers want to work with others digitally and tech companies have increasingly moved their products in this direction. Cloud office suites like Google Docs are a common option for many businesses and allow multiple employees to hop in and edit a document at the same time.
Other programs offer even more ways for employees to collaborate digitally with one another. For instance, the meeting platform Mezzanine is a conferencing service that allows streaming and on-screen control from multiple users at the same time. In a case study from Mezzanine developer Oblong Industries, client Holder Construction took advantage of the instant collaboration the service allows, even editing and adjusting a virtual mockup of a building in real time.
“The ability to use Mezzanine and bring everyone into one place, in real time, meant that it was a five-hour effort as opposed to a five-week effort, because we had the technology to solve the problem quickly,” Chad Douglas, director of pre-construction at Holder Construction, said.
Millenials want access now, and that mentality bleeds into workspaces.
Similarly, millennial employees often expect on-demand resources from their companies that can include everything from an internal wiki to in-house apps.
“Millennials have become accustomed to the ability to instantly access almost any information right on their phones and they’ve come to expect a similar experience in the workplace,” Study.com CEO Adrian Ridner said.
For millennial employees, this expectation comes from the bar that technology and the internet have set. If an employee’s wondering how to do something like process a basic document, would they rather go down to a department and manually search for it or would they rather just search up instructions on a company’s internal resource pages?
Ultimately, this philosophy shows the scale and importance of millennials towards workplace technology. Like any past generation, they simply want to take advantage of the resources they have around and with the power of current-generation technology, it’s easier than ever to work both smarter and faster.
Millennials and technology — it's a solid combination. Young people know what they're doing thanks to social media, smartphones and growing up as digital natives. Now, as young adults and millennial workers, they're better versed in tech than previous generations.