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I often hear people from the Baby Boomer and X Generations exclaiming that Millennials are lazy or disinterested. This is rubbish, unhelpful hyperbole at best; they are simply motivated in different ways, as are we all. Millennials are not prepared to suffer something if they really do not have too. This is in stark contrast to the Baby Boomers and Gen-X folks.

As a result, it’s a challenge that every business faces; how to engage everyone? Ignore the generation demographics for a moment and let’s look at the common factor present… we are all people who like different things.

What has become painfully clear in my years as a business owner and then more recently as a business owner providing business process automation and collaboration software, is this – people have different personalities, likes, dislikes, interests, things that excite us, and things that turn us off. It is simply impossible to think that, as a business, we can be all things to all generations.

Technology must be configured to meet
the business users in their comfort zone

My one single guiding light whenever I struggle to make sense of things is this; simplify. Strip back the details one by one until you are left with the one thing from which everything else emanates. Fix that.

Let’s take employee engagement; we already know we cannot be all things to all people, but if we strip it back and look at it pragmatically, why do people come to work? We do so largely out of need, and occasionally out of desire – more so than ever, people possess greater determination to do ‘something they love’. Of course, these reasons vary from generation to generation which is why it is a challenge. One solution that removes barriers and simplifies things for one generation will have totally different implications for the other generations

79% of Millennials site flexibility and work life balance as an
important benchmark of success

Many of today’s roles involve huge amounts of administration and spreadsheet filling, writing reports, exporting reports and generally doing things that previous generations have always done – ‘we’ve always done it that way’ is really a statement that should be banned in the workplace, or any place for that matter. Times have changed, great technology is no longer about the technology, it’s about what that tech can do for the people… Oddly enough though, we moan and cry about slack or laborious processes, yet as humans, we are loathed to change. Why? It simply makes no sense.

76% of organisations still rely on email attachments

Now, let’s look at the facts: –

1. Technology; social media is prolific, as is digital collaboration, virtual meetings and a whole host of other digitally driven methods of communicating – I like to call this ‘todays way of getting stuff done’
2. The typical Millennial in the workplace is between 25 to 35. For the purposes of this, let’s say an average of 30 years old
3. The number of years since Gen X were 30 years of age = 12 to 22 years
4. The number of years since Baby Boomers were 30 years of age = 24 to 40 years

Quite simply the influences that have shaped each of the generations are vastly different, meaning experience and skills – and therefore desires – are more diverse than they have ever been. The ‘tools’ available to be used in the workplace have dramatically changed over that last 5 years, never mind what has happened in the last 10, 20, 30 or 40 years. Yet, despite this obvious and unequivocal fact, businesses STILL try and force very diverse generations, each of which has had a very different upbringing, education, set of values, social experiences and motivations, to work in the same way. In doing so we either please some or, more likely, alienate everyone.

62% of Millennials site social media as their channel of choice
for one-to-one communications with customers

Humans are diverse, thankfully, but as business leaders and colleagues we must learn that our strengths and weaknesses are all different, that’s what makes a TEAM. Demanding that we all do things the same way won’t work. Demanding that someone you have hired into a really important role in your business – and let’s face it, every single one is important – spend even 5% or more of their time filling out reports and spreadsheets is, quite frankly, madness.

If you employ someone to sell, let them sell. A Marketer should do just that, not fill out reports. Nobody should fill out reports – filling out reports is boring. Spreadsheets are laborious, tedious, mind-numbingly dull… and if you haven’t guessed it yet, all of these things result in a lack of engagement.

So, what’s the answer?

In our digital world where everything from technology to business valuations and all points in between are experiencing ‘exponential’ growth or change, then I get back to my ‘if in doubt simplify’ rule, and what is clear is that information is the key. We generate and consume more information than ever before, and it too is exponential in its change and growth. It’s the access and interaction of humans with this data that is important. i.e. how connected is your information? How do we engage with our information in a way that appeals to all generations? this is the question every business must ask.

Millennials see the value in technology and are willing to try
almost anything if it will make their lives easier

Choice; that’s the answer – technology is about people and what it does for people more than it is about technology. Business must use technology to meet the business users in their comfort zone, regardless of what we believe is the correct way, because the correct way is whichever way enables everyone to engage with your information, and quite simply, get stuff done.

Technology, now more than ever, must adapt to the individual needs of each business and each user within that business; it is no longer acceptable for today’s technology companies to demand you change your working processes to adapt to their ways. Every business is different, every person is different, therefore we must adapt our technology to appeal to each user, each business, each person.

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