Millennials, Technology, and a the Need for a People-Centric Approach

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It seems whenever headlines mention Millennials, they refer to the generation as some overrepresented minority. The truth is that people aged 23-38 make up the vast majority of today’s information workforce. And, more than a generational cohort, Millennials are people first and foremost.

The preferences and behavior of this group of humans can inform a more people-centric approach to making the workplace more accommodating to them and others around them.

Our recent survey highlights some of the demands of this age group. Among the questions we asked was “What criteria do you prioritize when looking for a job?” People aged 24 to 44 responded “access to technology” about three times more often than older age groups. Why is this important? Millennials have made themselves clear: lackluster technology at the office isn’t going to cut it.

Workplace Technologies Leave Much to Be Desired
In our lives as consumers, we’ve grown accustomed to everything happening without a thought. We wake up in the morning to AI-enabled heating systems. While exercising, a device that intelligently calculates our fitness goals plays preferences. When we used to commute to work regularly, a navigation app would alert us to impending roadblocks. Then, we finally got to work and …

The technology products provided at the office are often downright unusable by the standards we expect from consumer tech. Millennials feel this deeply, and they’re demanding more from product people who create these tools and the organizations that purchase them.

For example, in a 2016 Dell and Intel survey, 42 percent of millennials said they would quit a job with “substandard technology.” Millennials responded that way more frequently than the survey sample as a whole.

The millennials for whom firms compete are more job-transient in nature than previous cohorts. Those who are at least 32-years-old have averaged four different jobs since graduating college. It’s clear that to attract millennial talent, firms must differentiate through the technology tools they offer. For people who make enterprise products and those at firms who purchase them, a new perspective is needed.

A People-Centric Approach Must Lead the Way
These days, a new people-centric point of view is emerging. Millennials have a sense of higher-value tasks they could be doing and feel stuck spending unnecessary time on objectives due to poorly functioning technology. When organizations hand them a leatherman for a task that requires a power drill, millennials understandably grow frustrated. Workplace technology must keep this perspective in mind and be designed with end-users in mind as real people who will insist on only using tools that help them get their job done efficiently, pleasantly, and effectively.

There are two main ways I think product designers and companies can better weave this perspective into their technology-building decisions. First, they should understand the difference between behavioral and attitudinal metrics; and, second, they must show users they care.

Attitudinal metrics. Shift from usage-based metrics to attitudinal metrics. B2B products will see high usage rates because every employee at the company that purchased a product is forced to use it. Instead, product folks should look at measures, such as net promoter scores (NPS), CSAT, Sean Ellis questions, and other numbers that measure how end users actually feel about the product. If employees actually like the technology they’re using, they may be more likely to stay at that company.

Show you care. At a prior role, we implemented a rule where, when product managers received poor feedback via an NPS report, they had to immediately reach out to the user to see what was wrong. People don’t expect products to be perfect, but they do expect you to care.

Win Over Millennials, Earn Competitive Advantage
Millennials are more forceful than other generations about their unwillingness to use poor tools, however because they are more vocal, their behavioral metrics will reveal how much they actually like the technology they use. This is a new trend in enterprise technology, and one that product people would be wise to adhere to. Years ago, there were no pressures forcing organizations to reconsider the technology they provided employees. Today, millennials are showing us things have changed. With a more people-centric approach, product teams can develop tools that people like to use, and firms can give their crucial millennials a reason to stay.

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