Organizations are leaving a lot of Gen Y's technology skills on the table.
August 7, 2015
It’s no secret that millennials depend on mobile technology. My peers and I walk around with our eyes glued to our devices, but surprisingly, companies aren’t accommodating our mobile hunger.
A new study by information technology solutions provider Softchoice found that 84 percent of millennials use a desktop computer for work, while only 57 percent use a laptop, 46 percent use a smartphone and 26 percent use a tablet. This is despite 89 percent of millennials using smartphones and 74 percent using tablets in their personal lives, compared with only 40 percent of millennials using desktop computers.
Why the disconnect? How does this affect learning and development? I interviewed Francis Li, vice president of information technology at Softchoice to find out. Below are edited excerpts of our interview.
We know millennials and other generations, too, want mobile. It’s their go-to at home, and they’d like similar devices at work. Why aren’t they being provided to them? Is it a security issue?
Li: I think a lot of businesses are actually finding it redundant to supply mobile devices to employees, given that most employees — millennials especially — already own one that they like and use every day. That’s why I think we’re seeing the decline of the traditional company-issued device in favor of a BYOD [Bring Your Own Device] policy.
One of the great value adds of cloud and mobile technology is the seamless blending of work and personal use — to be able to check work email and collaborate on projects, check Facebook, access a grocery list and buy movie tickets all from the same device — when and where you want. That’s the type of convenience millennials are looking for from an employer: to enable the use of technology on their terms.
Yes, security is always a concern, which is why having a robust BYOD policy — in which you communicate compliance and security rules and best practices of using your own device — is absolutely critical. Beyond policy, another big ‘must have’ is to provide a secure construct from which employees can access work in the cloud on their personal devices, and to ensure it’s as easy and intuitive as possible by leveraging features like single sign on.
Let’s talk about corporate learning and development. We know employees want this on the go and via mobile, do you find they are receiving that properly?
Li: Mobile learning hasn’t quite taken off. According to a study by the Brandon Hall Group, only 10 percent of companies are leveraging mobile learning solutions in their employee development. This might be that most organizations are behind the curve, or it simply might be that mobile devices just aren’t ideal for in depth training and development — from a screen size perspective, but also due to distractions like texts and emails popping up while you’re trying to focus on learning.
That said, there are always benefits to making training and development materials accessible to employees wherever they are — whether it’s at their desk, at home on their computer or tablet, or some might actually prefer to use their mobile devices. It’s about providing options and letting the individual decide how they learn best.
Your study also found that millennials are happiest at work when they spend 25 percent of their workweek somewhere other than the office. Do you find employers are accommodating this?
Li:More and more employers are accommodating greater flexibility in terms of where and when employees work. A recent survey by Accountemps found that 36 percent of companies have increased remote work opportunities over the last three years.
As cloud technology makes it easier for employees to work on their own schedules, I think the typical 9-to-5 work day is going to become a thing of the past. For example, having the flexibility to run a personal errand or go to the gym during the day, and then work from home in the evening is becoming a highly desirable option — especially for younger generations. And companies that allow this work lifestyle tend to see higher employee morale and stronger retention rates. Again, it’s about enabling employees to work on their terms in the ways that work best for them.
There’s a fine line here. You want to accommodate employees, but you don’t want to give them all the power — so what do you do?
Li: Long before you start making decisions on mobile device management or BYOD, you first need to understand how your employees use the technology and why, and what you need to do from an IT infrastructure standpoint to support it. If you wish to enable employees to work in the cloud and access apps from anywhere and multiple devices, you need to provide a safe construct from which they can do it. If you provide that environment, which is easy to access and meets their needs, the device they choose to work from is almost moot.
When it comes to mobile strategy, certainly BYOD provides a lot of freedom of choice for employees. If businesses want to (or need to) play things a little closer to the chest in terms of monitoring, storing and protecting private data, then Choose Your Own Device [CYOD] or Company-issued, Personally-Enabled [COPE] policies might be more appropriate.
For CYOD, employees are provided with a variety of devices that have been approved by the company. Employees own their phone, but any device they choose will work within the company IT environment. COPE is a little more restricting as the employee’s phone is chosen and paid for by the company. While employees can use their device for personal reasons, the company has the final say in how much freedom they actually get. These are just some methods companies use to accommodate their standards and employees’ needs.