In 2015, millennials became the biggest cohort in the Australian workforce [i], signalling a major shift in the way small businesses engage staff. This highly connected, constantly switched-on generation expect instant access to technology which is forcing businesses to rethink the way they work. Offering more flexible work environments will be key to attracting and retaining the best millennial talent.
Globally, society is hurtling towards mass connectivity and this will continue to have a profound impact on work. Today, more than 48% of the global population has internet coverage, and by 2019 it is estimated that 71% will be using it [ii]. This increase in internet usage will see data continue to grow exponentially as more people and devices connect.
The rate of digital media consumption is also revolutionising the way small businesses interact with their staff and customers . Since the iPhone was launched in 2007, the amount of time spent consuming digital content has doubled every year. Consumers access 51 per cent of content via mobile devices and social media is now a go-to source for news[iii].
Unlike the generations before them, the millennial workforce has distinctly different expectations of how, when and where they work.
Historically, staff have had to come into work to access their emails and office technology. Now, company information can be securely accessed outside the office walls. Estimates from the Australian Bureau of Statistics also show that the largest population growth in the country is in the outer suburbs (which are home to more than four million people and growing at double the national rate) [iv]. The daily commute and cost of travel will therefore become harder to justify if work can be productively and efficiently completed remotely.
For small business, providing a compelling reason for staff to come into work will be key to winning the recruitment war for the best talent. This means providing a work environment where employees can undertake independent tasks by working from home or the ‘third space’ – a café, restaurant or communal space that allows people to work outside the traditional office setting.
Rethinking the traditional office environment and introducing creative and connected workspaces for team-based and collaborate activities will entice staff to come into work for social interaction and to collaborate and new ideas.
Reliable, secure and smart workplace technologies sit at the heart of dynamic, future-focused workplaces. Moving away from paper-based and fixed location processes provides employees with access to information as remote and mobile workforces grow, and affords visibility over operations. It also delivers cost savings by reducing error, improving turn-around times and using less paper.
Introducing smart audio visual technology can enable small businesses to build an efficient and cost-effective remote and flexible workforce without compromising productivity. It means moving beyond PowerPoint presentations, awkward phone dial-in meetings, expensive travel and real estate premiums associated with having big office spaces. It can transform meeting rooms into collaboration spaces, allowing staff to draw, create, capture thoughts and work together in real-time, regardless of where employees are located.
However, smart workplace technology will not work in isolation. Strong leadership, a cultural shift and supporting internal policy is essential for creating a flexible workplace. Quality and consistency is also key to success – in order for staff on the other end of a video meeting to feel included in the collaboration process, they will be able to participate as an equal. This means being able to see and hear clearly, and ensuring the technology works seamlessly every time.
Unlike large organisations, which may be limited by complex IT infrastructure and layers of bureaucracy, small businesses can respond quickly and introduce agile and flexible work environments, ultimately putting them ahead of much larger competitors in attracting and retaining the millennial workforce of the future.
About the author
Alan Burt is the Chief Technology Officer at Ricoh Australia. He is passionate about the future of workplace collaboration and has helped businesses create efficient and future-focussed technology environments for more than 20 years. You can view his LinkedIn profile here.
[i] Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, Current Population Survey, April 2015
[ii] Source: internetsociety.org, 2015 Global Internet Report
[iii] Source: eMarketer, September 2014 (2008-2010), eMarketer, April 2015 (2011-2015)
[iv] Source: National Growth Areas Alliance, ‘Largest growth is in the outer surbubs’, 2 April 2015, http://www.ngaa.org.au/media/1116/largest_growth_in_the_country_is_in_the_outer_suburbs.pdf