The age of ‘millennial transit’ is upon us, as changes in technology present both tremendous opportunities alongside previously un-encountered disruptions to every day working life. Youth and technology have created a catalyst for organisational change. The pace of innovation today has never been greater and the challenge for many corporations will lie in harnessing the power of these changes as a competitive weapon. The millennial generation, those who have grown up with technology embedded into their everyday lives, hold the key to this business transformation.
It is often said that human nature resists change, clinging on to the status quo; yet failure to at least understand and evaluate the latest trends will make organisations obsolete in the industry landscape. Companies need to have the courage to ask tough questions and re-evaluate their business models. The millennial generation cannot be ignored; they are your employees, your customers, and potentially your employers in years to come.
The Millennial Effect
Millennials are becoming an increasing percentage of the workforce and expect an engaging workplace. In terms of attributes, this generation has high self-esteem, believes in networking, with an intense interest in new communication technologies. They are confident, connected and open to change. By tapping into this ethos, companies can realise a number of benefits, such as:
- Remaining agile: Companies tend to focus on quarterly cycles around products, customers and earnings. And this diverts focus into operational efficiency, growth and profitability rather than new opportunities, innovative products and services.
- Fostering a culture of innovation: This requires a multi-dimensional approach. Physically [re]-configuring the corporate environment to include more team rooms and activity areas can encourage collaboration and discussions. Rotation of employees across various programs generates different perspectives. Celebrating/rewarding innovation and embracing failures is important. Customers can also be innovation partners.
- Connecting the dots: Competition may have established leading products but they may not be ‘connecting the dots’ and integrating the products to develop new product/service innovations. This is extremely valid when trying to stay ahead in the competitive marketplace.
- Listening to the customer: Customers should be respected for the ‘power of choice’ that they have, a power which continues to get stronger. Every input from the customer goes into improving and evolving products and services. In a way the consumer has become the producer; it is the age of ‘prosumption’.
- Being aware of competition: Competition may arise from the most unlikely places, businesses must be aware of the challenges that competitors may create and proactively adjust their strategy. It is even better to formalise the competitive positioning/intelligence process in a company. This helps in improving service levels and reinventing products. Sometimes, it makes sense to partner with competition and seize market opportunities.
- Executing on innovation: There is a big difference between ‘invention’ and ‘innovation’. Many companies have gone into obscurity because they invented, did not sustain execution and that did not yield real innovation. Disruptive innovations that create new markets are backed by execution strategies which are rendered flawlessly.
Supporting the Millennial Generation through technology
In addition to having to cope with the changing technology arena, organisations face the challenge of not being ‘technologically prepared’ for this ‘always on’ millennial worker. Legacy systems are not web services based and are difficult to integrate with newer mobile applications. There are several technology enablers that can help modernise application infrastructures and a set of design principles can kick start this journey: creating a service oriented architecture (SOA) ; adopting a business process centric design culture (BPM); consolidating disparate sources into master data records (MDM); designing for multi-channel, context aware customer experiences (CEM). Other millennial cravings can be satisfied through remote working, BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and gamification (online gaming environments).
The convergence of social, mobility, analytics/Big Data and cloud technologies (SMAC) is where the real benefits begin to occur. Taken together these technologies are revolutionising business and society by transforming old business models and creating new ones. Combined, these forces form the basis of the technology platform of the future; this platform will place an incredible amount of power in the hands of consumers and employees. Organisations that leverage data will have access to new, innovative ways to launch products and services. Similarly, organisations that can quickly provide mobile experiences that link social interactions and localised services are likely to be recognised as leaders in the millennial era; particularly those that combine this with the agility and speed of cloud services.
With the millennial consumer, it is all about mobility. Companies will need to ensure that their products and services are accessible through mobile platforms and that the end customer experience is as rich as the web based interface. Location based services will also be important to engage with the millennial consumer as they are more likely to engage with an Ad that is relevant to their location.
So, how do you get started?
There are many enterprises which have had the foresight and courage to embrace change, both technologically and via shifts in business models. These organisations have been able to avoid becoming ‘dinosaurs’. The first step is to envision what the future of your industry holds and the next is to understand how these disruptive yet enabling technologies will change the fundamentals of your business model. Once the analysis is complete, it is critical to enable and re-engage the workforce to align them to the ‘millennial mission’.
Implementing millennial behaviours and altering corporate structures will be critical for success. After the team is in place, the enterprise can drive optimisation and innovation in core products and services. Comprehensive understanding of the end customer and providing them an outstanding consumer experience that is contextual will be key in retention. In all this, innovation is the central theme; if the organisation does not promote innovation starting today it will lag behind competition and wake up to extinction on a later day!
The article was originally published on CBR on February 07, 2014 and is re-posted here by permission.