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The Force of the Young Worker

|Feb 16|magazine13 min read

This story originally appeared here in the February issue of Business Review Australia magazine.

Story by Kevin Bloch, CTO, Cisco Australia and New Zealand

Generation Y, the group title given to young people aged between 18 and 29, grew up in the prime age of technology: the dot-com boom, the continuing sophistication of the mobile phone, the rise of Apple, music file sharing, and the birth of social media.

However, the innovations of some of the most globally influential members of this generation may also be contributing to the hindrance of the recruitment and retention of ‘Gen Y.’

Kevin Bloch, CTO of Cisco Australia and New Zealand, analyses and interprets the results of a 2011 workplace survey administered to members of Gen Y and advises on how your business can best leverage these findings to build an able young workforce and increase workplace productivity.

In order to understand the challenges companies face in an increasingly Gen Y, mobile and cyber-security, risk-prone world, the survey gathered insights and feedback across young professionals and university students in 14 countries, including Australia. By focusing on a demographic of 18- to 29-year-olds, the survey contributes concrete figures to the ongoing discussion about young people’s workplace expectations.

In particular, its results have been useful in challenging the persistent, but ultimately vague, belief that Gen Y is simply Facebook and gadget-obsessed.

For HR departments seeking high employee engagement and young talent recruitment strategies, the report is the strongest indication yet that sound technology policies are critical to supporting and influencing the next generation workforce.

THE BARE NECESSITIES

So profound is their attachment to technology, that one in three university students and young professionals surveyed consider the Internet to be as important as air, water, food and shelter. Not as surprisingly, perhaps, the survey also found that their desire to use social media, mobile devices and the Internet more freely in the workplace is strong enough to influence their future job choice, sometimes even more than salary.

In fact, 52 per cent of Australian respondents identified that they would “sacrifice the extra salary for the opportunity to work wherever I am most productive and happiest.”

One of the most pertinent findings is the growing importance the younger generation places on workplace mobility. Across the board, both the university and young professional populations have expectations that they will be able to access work applications remotely from a home computer or personal mobile device. In Australia, 26 per cent of young professionals surveyed believe that being able to work remotely is a right (not a privilege) in today’s world and 74 per cent of university students expect to access their corporate network using their home computer in the future.

And what of the bustling office hub? Only one in three young professionals indicated that they thought it was necessary for them to be physically ‘in the office’ in order to make decisions more effectively and efficiently, and nearly half indicated that it was unnecessary for their everyday job routines.

In contrast, when asked to rate how the boss felt about working from home, the majority indicated that management deemed it necessary for them to be physically in the office in all situations.

INTERNET PRODUCTIVITY

As iPhones and other smartphones completely dominate this younger market, it also fans the debate over the necessity of offices compared to the ability to connect to the Internet and work anywhere, such as at home. In fact, in the 2012 edition of the survey, three out of five employees globally thought offices were unnecessary for being productive.

Regardless of whether construing workplace mobility in terms of workers’ rights is the best way to frame the issue, the overwhelming demand for these arrangements indicates both an evolution in factors influencing employee performance and a radical re-conceptualisation of the workplace itself. These attitudes show that the desire to ‘deconstruct’ the physical workplace and its tradition of ‘9-5’ by working outside the office, and accessing work networks and data remotely, will increasingly impact businesses as they transition into an era defined by an explicitly individualised approach to work.

The onus now lies squarely with organisations to leverage their potential to increase both productivity and employee engagement.

Access the full report from the Cisco website or find the raw date in Chapter 1 or Chapter 2.