Do You Know How Millennials Work?

Digital natives, or those who have grown up in the digital world, use technology to communicate, record, educate and understand the world. As multiple generations enter the workforce, organizations are focused on how to bridge the gap between digital natives and those who may not be as technologically savvy.

In her current role as vice present of strategic marketing at global technology firm Ricoh, Terrie Campbell focuses on how organizations can address generational workforce behavior, mobile and remote user collaboration and shifting corporate priorities. Campbell has spent the majority of her career working in the document management and information technology industry. She frequently discusses the challenges of workforce behavior and shifting corporate dynamics.

How are digital natives changing the way businesses work?
Businesses are taking steps to create agile and responsive workplaces that reflect the work styles of digital natives. These include instituting bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, supporting the desire to work virtually and time shifting, incorporating social media into internal and external corporate communications efforts, to name a few.

What should organizations do right now to prepare for this generational shift?
Digital natives are the first generation of workers who have grown up entirely in an online world. They expect to communicate via text, instant message and are comfortable with social media. They transact their personal business online. As a consequence, they bring different expectations to the workplace — namely, have higher expectations for accessing business information and using the newest technology for work and communications. In order to be successful, it is critical that organizations make sure their information processes both accommodate and empower these digital natives. We all know how frustrating it is when we can’t find the information we need to be more effective. In fact, just over 30 percent of respondents to a Ricoh-commissioned global survey told us that their organizations had lost key employees as a result of ineffective information processes.

What long-term steps should an organization take to adapt to the work preferences of millennials?
I’d recommend that organizations: 1. Identify specific places where they can streamline processes and optimize information access; 2. Conduct regular reviews of these processes; 3. Support mobile work styles; and 4. Build your brand as a great place to work.

What mentoring and collaborative processes do millennials require today?
Digital natives collaborate and share information in a variety of ways and expect their organization will provide tools to support this — Skype, Dropbox, Evernote, to name a few. And while digital natives can help boomers and Gen Xers better leverage these tools, don’t forget knowledge transfer also works the other way. Your veteran workers know what strategies, processes and approaches generally succeed in your organization. Be sure there is a process in place for transferring this knowledge to the next generation.

What can organizations do to attract and retain digital natives?
The savvy enterprise will do what it takes to attract and retain ‘tech-hungry’ digital natives. This includes funding smart business initiatives that encourage their affinity for the latest technology and staying plugged into work, even after hours. At the same time, the enterprise needs to make the necessary changes to streamline and optimize slow and inefficient document and information processes. Trying to use the latest tools within an outmoded, restrictive information infrastructure will only frustrate this fast-moving generation, a demographic unafraid to move to a more creative and innovative work environment.

Jennifer Kahn is an editorial intern at Diversity Executive magazine. She can be reached at