This is What “Mobile” Work Really Means to Digital Natives

Millennials, who have lived their entire lives surrounded by digital technology, are nowthe largest generation in the American workforce (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics). They are also perceived as a more demanding generation than any other. They seem to have higher expectations of their employers, and a much different perspective on what job flexibility means than their older peers. But the truth is, they aren’t much different.

Millennials are skilled and self-motivating people, and they buy into a common culture of success. They are also very tuned into how their superiors view them; I’ve learned that in my experience managing teams of 5 to 200 technical people. Specifically, they value real, true expressions of appreciation (or critique) far more than “participation” style feedback. For example, I remember sitting at a town hall meeting once at a technology company when an engineer asked the CEO “Why do you treat us like liabilities and not assets?” People perceive how others view them and they are not easily influenced by platitudes. Telling people that they do good work is good. Assigning them to challenging tasks shows them that you mean it. Listening to their feedback is a start. Acting on their feedback shows that you value their views. And, that is where there are some generational differences. Baby Boomers may have appreciated a monetary bonus or corner office, but millennial’s job satisfaction – and your employee retention rates – are dependent on technology. That’s because a millennial workforce is a “mobile” workforce.

Not only are millennials filling more field service, public safety, manufacturing and utility jobs – which require them to be on the move all day – but most are “Digital Natives” who have been glued to mobile devices since they were teenagers. Many knew how to work a tablet before they knew how to brush their own teeth. So, the use of mobile devices is a natural and expected part of their job.

If you want to recruit high-performing “Digital Natives” – and reinforce that they are an asset to your team – then look at the mobile “tools” you are giving them. You can’t hand new workers 3-ring binders of operational instructions and expect them to feel valued and respected. They are so used to mobile devices in their life that a lack of them at work would be jarring. They need high quality devices with intuitive software to complete daily tasks more efficiently and meet your performance expectations. Anything less is a negative. And, if you are still doing things like phone or email dispatch, you are increasing the annoyance rate for your employees, who will become much more likely to leave.

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Mobile Workers Can Only Work as Fast as Their Computers – How Fast is Yours?

However, mobile tools are not just about business metrics like productivity and cost savings, as significant as the ROI may be. They aren’t just a way to “coddle” a younger generation either. (Though I laugh at those memes, they just aren’t true.) Investing in better mobile technology is a way to show that you care about your employees, your company and even your customers. It is the key to having an engaged, involved and valued workforce . But, there’s a caveat: You must equip your workers, regardless of age or experience, with modern mobile tools that support the workflow and their working style.

Millennials are Digital Natives and will put rugged tablets to good use

Now, this does NOT mean using consumer-grade equipment. While it may seem more convenient and logical to deploy iPads or other familiar devices to ensure fast on-boarding with all generations, Digital Natives expect well-executed mobile tools and are more technology-agile. Consumer devices will fail fast, and frustrate them (and you) even faster, especially given the mobile crossover point we’re at.

So, what is the right mobile tool, for both your ROI and your recruitment and retention efforts ?

If you want to meet the expectations of your entire workforce, including digital natives, near-retirees and IT, choose a device that runs your workflow software without causing undue process changes. For example, find a tablet that makes dispatch, service and reporting easy and intuitive. And, make sure it works where your people do: in all kinds of weather, around heavy equipment and during constant transitions between the “office”, vehicle and field. You can’t afford to give them a tablet that will break if a tool is dropped on it. Also, make sure the device has superior wireless connectivity, long battery life and a screen that can read in direct sunlight. One that can be remotely managed by your IT department is best given the mobility of today’s workforce. In most cases, that “equation” yields a rugged tablet running either Windows OS or Android. Of course, there are many other criteria you should consider when vetting any mobile device for your various jobs. (See below for more insights.)

Just remember, millennials make up 50% of the candidates for your open positions. Don’t just tell them you value them, show them – by equipping them with high performance mobile tools.

Not sure where to start with your mobile technology search? These resources will help:

Blog Author: Bob Ashenbrenner
President of Durable Mobility Technologies, LLC.