How Tech-Savvy Millennials Are Driving the Digital Workplace

By Lisa Wirthman, Contributor

A seismic shift is underway in today’s multi-generational workforce, as younger employees propel digital workforce transformation, reports CompTIA, a non-profit trade association representing the technology industry.

Millennial employees—those turning 24-39 this year—are now the largest segment of the workforce, according to Pew Research. These digital natives are using their sway to drive technological change that makes work more efficient. CompTIA’s research, for example, shows that two-thirds of millennials and their younger Gen Z colleagues—those turning 23 and younger—consider an organization’s embrace of technology and innovation as an important factor when choosing an employer.

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While younger employees don’t necessarily expect 100 percent adoption of cutting-edge technologies by prospective employers, “they want to see that companies are forward-thinking in the tools that they are providing to their employees,” says Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications for CompTIA.

Organizations in search of top talent are listening. Though companies still need to make technology decisions that are best for their businesses, “they are making accommodations for the change in attitude and expectations of younger workers,” Ostrowski continues.

Consumer Experiences Lead the Way

Younger workers’ technology expectations are shaped by their consumer experiences, Ostrowski says. Millennial and Gen Z workers—who connected with mobile devices at an early age, and used online tools to work and collaborate in school—now expect similar types of interaction with technology as they enter the workforce.

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Millennials have little patience, for example, in emailing a work document to six different people, when everyone can collaborate in an online version, Ostrowski says. “They’re looking for efficiencies in getting the job done,” he adds.

A Dell Technologies study of Gen Z workers additionally shows that about 80 percent of these youngest workers aspire to work with cutting-edge technology.

To create more efficiencies at work, younger workers seek increased use of cloud-based software, online collaboration tools, and custom workplace apps, reports CompTIA. More than half of millennials now use cloud-based tools for word processing and spreadsheets, the organization reports, compared to just a third of boomers (those turning 56-74). A quarter of younger workers also use both online collaboration tools and custom mobile apps for work purposes, the report states.

While millennials and Gen Z seek faster implementation of digital technologies in the workspace, older employees typically want to make existing technology more user-friendly, according to the CompTIA report. “There’s a bigger learning curve and perhaps some greater resistance to using some of these new tools by older workers,” Ostrowski says.

Well-run organizations with strong corporate cultures tend to minimize these generational differences by working to meet younger workers’ technology demands while also offering training to boomers, Ostrowski notes.

Automation Creates Conflicts and Concerns

Even as millennials drive faster digital technology adoption in the workplace, they worry about losing jobs to automation. All generations report high awareness of automation trends, according to the CompTIA report. But millennials with more years left in the workforce express greater concerns about the impact of automation on future jobs as compared to boomers (52 percent and 37 percent, respectively). “There is some conflict and some concern about automating processes,” confirms Ostrowski.

A deeper look at the conflicting data by CompTIA shows that millennial views reflect the personal impact of automating technologies on their lives and work. About 60 percent of younger workers see well-established examples of automation like bank ATMs and online travel booking that increase personal convenience as more positive forms of automation. However, only 43 percent of younger workers are positive about more advanced technologies like factory automation that could potentially replace today’s current jobs.

“At the end of the day, the company is going to have to figure out what new technologies make sense for their business, and what’s going to make them more productive, more efficient, and more profitable.”

—Steven Ostrowski, director of corporate communications, CompTIA

A separate survey of future Gen Z workers in the United States ages 13–18 shows that nearly two-thirds of these teens see automation as a reason to further develop their technology skills and experience so they can be well-positioned in the future workforce.

With younger workers embracing faster technology adoption in the current and future workplace, companies need to show that they are forward-thinking in their digital transformation strategies, while still managing multi-generational concerns over job security, says Ostrowski.

The best guideline, he adds, is for a company to ultimately stay true to what’s best for its business. “At the end of the day, the company is going to have to figure out what new technologies make sense for their business, and what’s going to make them more productive, more efficient, and more profitable.”