As originally published in the American City Business Journals.
Millennials are officially the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.
Now, before I go any further, let me be very clear: I’m not here to talk stereotypes; every generation seems to like to pick on the one that comes after it, and I find most of these generalizations to be off-base far more often than they are accurate.
That said, as millennials continue to climb the corporate ladder and as baby boomers continue to retire in droves, the look and feel of our workforce is about to change in a very real way.
And as business owners, we need to accept what this means for our companies before we begin to lose relevance and, by extension, both talent and revenue.
Why we can’t ignore this generational shift
Those born between the early 80s and the early 2000s are the most tech-savvy group of people our nation has ever seen. They grew up with AIM and texting, with Google, with iPhone apps, and with YouTube videos that can teach you how to build or repair anything under the sun.
In other words, this generation has been able to access and work with an insane amount of data easily and instantly for the majority of their lives.
Why does this matter?
Try telling someone who has carried a smartphone in their pocket since they were 13 that there’s no way for them to work from anywhere but your office should they accept a position with your company.
Or, better yet, try telling the same person that, should they choose to do business with you, they’ll have to do the paperwork over fax since your email client can’t send or receive large files.
Chances are they will view your company as (a) outdated, (b) poorly managed, or even (c) incompetent.
How you can make sure your company stays relevant
In order to attract and retain millennials as both clients and employees, make sure you have — at minimum — these bases covered:
- Remote access. Your team should have a flexible work environment(even if it’s only for inclement weather), and your clients shouldn’t have to put up with you being off the grid any time you’re away from your desk.
- Collaboration. Instant messaging and file sharing solutions can be used both internally and externally, and will allow you to share information quickly and securely without clogging up email inboxes.
- Security. Can your team trust you to keep their personal information safe? Do you have the technologies and policies in place that will properly balance security with usability? Can you demonstrate to your clients how you’ll protect their data?
- Reliability. Whether your systems are on-site or cloud-based, they have towork. Your team needs to be able to meet their deadlines without fighting with poor performance, lag, or downtime, and your clients need to be able to trust you to deliver.
If your industry is ultra-competitive, you would be wise to go above and beyond these criteria in order to attract the best business and the best talent.
But for most of us, these are the core standards to which we need to hold ourselves if we hope to keep pace with the ever-evolving workforce.
Or, soon enough, we may very well get left in the dust.