Is Your Workplace Ready of the Millennials?

The workplace has changed dramatically over the past couple of years.  Advances in mobility and devices and increasingly tech savvy workers have forced many enterprises to re-assess their definition of the workplace and adapt to demands for a more flexible approach to work. 

By Matt McCloskey, Sales Director, eir Business NI

Mobility advances, unified collaboration (UC) tools and growing Wi-Fi networks have all combined to create a more flexible and productive workplace. In fact, the idea of a static workplace is rapidly disappearing as a younger generation of employees join the workforce. These so-called Millennials have been connected to a range of devices for most of their lives and value the greater flexibility and collaboration that tools such as IM, social networks, videoconferencing and Wi-Fi bring.

The Effects of a Modern Connected Workplace

It’s clear that a digital workplace can deliver productivity benefits. Businesses that implement social technologies for employee interaction increase the productivity of high-skilled workers by 20–25% (McKinsey Global Institute, 2012).  According to Deloitte, second generation digital collaboration tools such as virtual meetings, enterprise social networks and IM allow for a higher frequency of shorter but more engaging contact.  In a 2013 study across 6 countries in Western Europe, they found that employees with access to effective collaboration tools were 17% more satisfied with their workplace culture.

UC and a more established Wi-Fi network are fuelling the growth of trends like BYOD. Gartner predicts that by 2016 38% of enterprises expect to stop providing their workers with devices, and by 2017 50% of companies will require their employees to supply their own device. By allowing employees to use their own devices enterprises can tap into significant benefits. BYOD can reduce the upfront costs of hiring, workers have access to market-leading technology faster, employees are juggling less devices and are happier using their own, employees are more productive quicker as they are familiar with their own device and less time is spent on training or upskilling workers.

Organisations are Playing Catch-up

The benefits of a more flexible approach to working are clear, yet according to statistics, the modern workplace has yet to emerge. Latest results from CIPD found that only 35% of employers offer mobile working arrangements and actual uptake is as low as 14%.  Deloitte’s 2013 study highlighted that just 9% of respondents believed their organisation to have a very effective infrastructure for sharing and collaboration.  The technology is there to enable greater take-up, so what’s stopping businesses from freeing up employees from their desks?

Creating an open digital working environment can be a minefield for enterprises, who need to walk a fine line between respecting employee privacy and protecting intellectual property and sensitive data.  According to research by Deloitte, the big collaboration blockers are traditional human resource issues like workplace culture and management structure.  HR and IT within organisations need to work hand-in-hand to move digital collaboration tools from ‘nice to have’ to ‘core applications’.

Where to start with a Digital Workplace Policy?

Every company is different and flexible work policies are not a ‘one size fits all’ solution but here are some of the key elements:

  • Assess the tools employees are using and determine an acceptable usage policy for each – ensure that employees read and understand them.
  • Make it clear what is permitted on social media from the outset to avoid any confusion. Companies should make sure that employees know how to react to negative comments and that they are not permitted to post confidential company data.
  • Clearly state what type or classification of information can be communicated via IM. Your policy may want to include the company’s right to monitor usage.
  • Ensure personal devices that are used for work purposes are password protected.
  • Draw up a list of applications that are acceptable to use on own/company devices. An acceptable usage list means all employees are aware of the applications and other resources that are considered safe by their company.
  • Make sure the workplace policy covers accessing sensitive data from a personal device and use of Wi-Fi hotspots.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of executives as role models.

In conjunction with a comprehensive policy, a mobile device management (MDM) solution is worth investing in if flexible working is prevalent in an enterprise. MDM solutions make it easier for companies to track, monitor and secure employee interactions.

When it comes to security, an ‘information-focused’ strategy will become more prevalent with greater focus on detective and reactive controls. In practice, this means implementing context-aware security monitoring for internal and external environments, threat intelligence assessment capabilities and incident response.

Regardless of the added complexity, the modern connected workplace is inevitable.  Gartner predicts that by 2018, 25% of large organisations will have an explicit strategy to make their corporate computing environments similar to a consumer computing experience.  There’s no doubt that workers of today expect to be able to work on their terms: at non-traditional hours, from non-traditional workplaces like cafes, using their own laptops or smartphones and with access to collaborative tools. For many enterprises, attracting top talent means creating a Millennial-friendly workplace. This transformed workplace is one where flexibility is encouraged and supported in an environment that protects both the worker and the enterprise.