The invasion is under way. The newest generation – those so-called Millennials born since the 1980s and raised on ever-present mobile devices, ubiquitous online access and social media – are entering the digital workplace in force.
How will the unique environment that this generation grew up in influence the way they work? There’s plenty of social and political research on Millennials but little geared at helping IT managers support and get the best out of this technology-engaged cohort. With that in mind, we surveyed 400 U.S. Millennials, ages 20 through 29, on their attitudes and behavior around at-work technology and tech support, communications preferences and problem-solving styles. We found that Millennials have distinctive characteristics around response time, communications channels and self-sufficiency that IT needs to address to make these workers productive and avoid potential problems.
Everything you have heard about Millennials and instant gratification is true. Although the Millennials we surveyed said they are largely satisfied with tech-support services, they have extremely high — and in many cases unrealistic — expectations for response time. Nearly 60 percent think that only 10 minutes is an acceptable waiting period, while 30 percent said “just a couple of minutes.”
We also found that many Millennials like to try to find their own solutions before going through proper IT-mandated procedures (see figure below). Although 39 percent of Millennials turn first to company support upon encountering a technical problem, that means that 61 percent look elsewhere first. A quarter said they seek help from colleagues or friends, and another 24 percent try to figure out a solution via a search engine such as Google.
This kind of behavior can lead to end users making problems worse. But at least most Millennials aren’t broadcasting their problems to the world. Very few said their first recourse was either a forum or social media channel such as Facebook or Twitter. In interviews, Millennials spelled out different reasons for not going to a public social network for support problems. These included speed, privacy and equating public networks with entertainment. Corporate social networks with searchable self-help documentation and FAQs could further minimize external security risks.
As far as communicating with support staff, many Millennials would prefer something other than the two dominant tech support channels — the phone or email. Despite their requirement for immediacy, nearly 6 in 10 Millennials said that the telephone is not their first choice, and 70 percent said the same about email.
The net result? IT support staffs need to work on delivering initial responses faster and through the channels that Millennials prefer. IT should aim to deliver efficient communications through SMS and chat in addition to, and often prior to, phone or email, to balance the Millennials’ expressed needs for immediacy, multitasking and location. And they can steer young employees toward mainstream behavior via training and education on IT policies and limitations, as the survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of Millennials want to learn more about troubleshooting.
For much more detail on supporting this new generation in the enterprise, see this GigaOM Pro report, the first in a two-part series. The second section looks at how IT managers are responding, and there’s an upcoming webinar on August 24 that will feature highlights and discussion.
Image courtesy Flickr user Alex E. Proimos