As I have mentioned before in my blog on the use of tagging technology at Disney World, my children are of an age where they will be joining the workforce in a few years’ time. It is a worrying time.
But my worries go further than ‘are my children ready for the workplace?’ In fact, the worry is ‘is the workplace ready for the millennial workforce?’
A millennial approach to connection
The reason this is on my mind is my youngest, James – a 16 year old boy, who does all the normal things, including playing online games. However, 3 years ago he built his own gaming PC (not that I think he is following in his father’s footsteps!)
He is now on the 3rd or 4th version – and it is seeing how this is used and how the next generation use technology to work together that has led me to this question.
His new PC is not just built for playing games, but streaming them – something I have discovered is a growing & very profitable market. It seems strange to many, myself included! But millions of children – your future employees – watch others play video games regularly. This covers the spectrum of games, from the very successful MineCraft to first person combat games.
A note on MineCraft: This is now much more than a virtual world where children can explore and build. See how it is being used to represent, explore & work on real world data such as that published by Defra.
The millennials seem to watch video games, streamed out live or on YouTube, like you and I might watch sports or a film and it is driving the same economics as the rest of the entertainment sector. Apart from the fact 16-25 year olds seem to be making millions of dollars from their bedrooms as the best know ‘Streamers’ or ‘YouTubers’ have millions of followers globally.
Millennials – working together by default, through technology
Setting aside this new market though, and looking at asset intensive industries such as the construction & utility sectors, I’m not sure that many companies are ready for the workforce of tomorrow – and could fail to attract the next generation of talent. Why?
My son & his peers are used to seamless connection & enablement. Their games allow people who may be separated by thousands of miles geographically to work together very effectively.
As I watch James, he is using multiple modes of communication with his team – live video streaming, text based chat and voice. These channels are used to agree strategies, identify actions required and ensure the full team have all the up to date information they need.
For a typical monosyllabic 16 year old, the level and accuracy of communication is incredible. But it relies on multiple technologies that have been open sourced and deployed not by an IT department but by the end users themselves.
The result is a highly effective and collaborative way of working, using technology to deliver true situational awareness. I’m convinced that translating this model into the workplace could drive unprecedented levels of team performance and success – so why isn’t it happening yet?
Changing ways of working – a transformational business issue
Enabling the workforce with similar capabilities presents considerable challenges for organisations. Many IT departments would struggle with the procedures, policies, or indeed the network and infrastructure resources necessary to deliver the performance that millennials expect.
However, I don’t think it is just the IT department’s problem. This cuts across HR, business operations, and indeed becomes a fundamental issue around the survival of the business.
Talent has never been more important for future success. So, how will businesses attract and retain this population of workers who are starting to enter the market right now?
They expect an always connected, digital, environment that has the flexibility for them to adapt, that delivers full situational awareness of the environment and allows them to communicate and collaborate to a level rarely seen in the workplace today.
Technology innovation enabling change
Whilst cultural & organisational changes are just as important, new technologies of course have a role to play.
Tagging technology such as NFC, RFID and Bar/QR codes enable far more rapid access to information & seamless linking to key operational data. Assets and equipment of the future will be increasingly “smart”, using Internet of Things technology to report on their condition & usage.
And returning to the employee experience, all this information & data needs to be processed, analysed and streamed back to the people who need it most – the front line workforce.
I expect the next generation of workers to benefit from access to far richer “how-to” content – videos, animated diagrams, infographics and so on – as well as seamless connection to their peers and subject matter experts.
At first, this will be via current technology such as phones and tablets, but new ways to access this information, such as wearables and Augmented Reality, are set to provide a far richer experience. These may have a particularly important role to play in hazardous or challenging environments.
Many of these technologies are already available – and already being used by the future workforce.
The question for today’s asset-intensive businesses is:
“Are we agile enough to adopt and deploy these technologies?”
If the answer is no – then that question becomes more pointed:
“Can we attract the talent we need – or will we die trying?”
Graeme has a first degree in Computing Science and a Masters in Business Administration. He has successfully used his experience and knowledge of both business and technology to deliver IT enabled change for many organisations. Outside of work, Graeme has completed a project to build his own house and plays regularly in a band.