New generation of workers want technology their way

Millennial generation students and employees (those aged 14 to 27) expect to use their own technology and mobile devices for work and are increasingly choosing their place of employment based on how accommodating companies are to their personal technology preferences, according to a survey released today by Accenture. In addition, more than half (60 percent) of Millennials are either unaware of their companies’ information technology (IT) policies or are not inclined to follow them.

The survey, which queried more than 400 U.S. students and employees across three age groups — 14-17 (“younger Millennials”), 18-22 (“mid-Millennials”) and 23-27 (“older Millennials”) — found an increasing demand for high-tech devices to connect with colleagues, peers, friends, and family, rather than face-to-face contact. The findings point to a disconnect between the technology that organizations provide their workers and how young workers actually want to use technology and collaborate in the workplace.

The survey’s key findings highlight specific workplace implications for today’s employers that affect corporate IT:

  • Millennials want to choose their technology. Young people both in the workplace and in school say they expect to use their own technology and mobile devices for work rather than those supplied by their employer. In nearly every category of workplace technology, more than 20 percent of the respondents stated that employer-provided technologies did not meet expectations, while one-third of the mid-Millennials said they expect not only to use the computer of their choice, but also to access the technology applications of their choice once in the workforce (32 percent and 34 percent respectively).
  • No need to seek corporate approval. When asked which technologies they currently use or access for work-related activities that are not supported by their employers, mid-Millennials cited mobile phones (selected by 39 percent), open source technology (19 percent), instant messaging (27 percent), online applications (12 percent) and social networking sites (28 percent). Similarly, they regularly download non-standard technology from free public websites such as open source communities, “mashup” and “widget” providers. For example, three-quarters of the mid-Millenials report that they have accessed online collaborative tools (75 percent) and online applications (71 percent) from free public websites when those technologies were not available at work or not meeting their expectation.
  • Lack of workplace education on corporate policy. Only 40 percent of all respondents said that their employers have published detailed policies related to posting work or client information on public websites. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of respondents said they don’t know if their company has such a policy; 17 percent said their employer hasn’t published such a policy, 6 percent said that whatever policy their company has published is too complex to understand, and 6 percent said they will post work or client information on public sites regardless of any policy, at least when communicating with colleagues.
  • Younger employees insist on state-of-the-art technology. More than half (52 percent) of all Millennials surveyed said that state-of-the-art technology is an important consideration in selecting an employer. More than half (56 percent) of the mid-Millennials and two-thirds (67 percent) of the older Millennials still in college claim that whether or not an employer has state-of-the-art equipment will be an important factor when choosing where to work.
  • Organizations will need to provide new communication and collaboration channels. Millennials expect employers to provide communication channels such as online chat, instant messaging, mobile text messaging and RSS feeds to communicate with their customers and clients. However, only 6 percent say their organization provides online chat and instant messaging, while 21 percent say they should and similarly 5 percent said their organization supports text messaging, though 18 percent felt they should since it is an important channel. In addition, just 5 percent said their organization provides RSS feeds versus 12 percent who felt they need to.
  • Privacy may be melting away. One out of four (26 percent) working Millennials said that they write openly about themselves and friends online, and one in six (17 percent) share openly details of their life online.
  • Coming to the end of e-mail as we know it. While older Millennials say they spend an average of 9.5 hours a week writing or receiving work-related emails, mid-Millennials already in the workforce spend only 7.7 hours a week on e-mail. High school and young college students spend less than two hours a week e-mailing, instead preferring text and instant messaging and communicating on social networking sites.
  • Blogging is more myth than reality. Regardless of age, Millennials spend an average of only 30 minutes a week blogging. This is far less than the time they spend searching for information on the Internet, listening to portable devices, text messaging, instant messaging, communicating on social network sites or interacting in virtual communities.

“The message from Millennials is clear: to lure them into the workplace, prospective employers must provide state-of-the-art technologies,” said Gary Curtis, managing director of Accenture Technology Consulting. “And if their employers don’t support their preferred technologies, Millennials will acquire and use them anyway. In order to acquire and retain the best talent, organizations must understand the technologies that the new workforce expects and then find a way to support their employees without compromising enterprise security.”

About the Study
As part of a survey to understand how the technology-driven culture of today's "Millennials" — the incoming workforce — would affect IT organizations’ decisions in the future, Accenture conducted a quantitative online survey in June 2008 of more than 400 U.S. consumers between the ages of 14 to 27. All respondents aged 14-17 have completed at least middle school, and all respondents 18-27 years of age have completed at least high school. All respondents included in the analysis were in school, recently graduated or employed. Respondents represent a random sample of this subgroup, not of the general pool of U.S. consumers. The survey was part of Accenture’s ongoing High Performance IT research program, which aims to better understand the drivers and challenges to achieving high performance within IT.

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