By Kelly Koelliker, Director, Product Marketing, Verint Systems
There are many sweeping generalizations about the millennial workforce today. This includes a lack of loyalty, addiction to mobile devices, and a general sense of entitlement. These criticisms are short-sighted and, ultimately, bad for business.
Millennials — those between the ages of 18 and 35 — are a reality in business today. According to Gallup they make up 38 percent of the U.S. workforce and are estimated to occupy 75 percent of it by 2025. And the successful companies we work with view them as an asset, not a liability.
Nevertheless, they bring change to the workplace, and change is never easy. However, we find when companies adjust their workforce management techniques and adopt technologies and approaches to engage millennial employees, good things happen. Most importantly, these companies do a better job of engaging their customers — many of whom, as you well know, are millennials too.
Engagement Equals Retention
Consider these statistics from the previously-mentioned Gallup report, For Millennials, Is Job-Hopping Inevitable?” Sixty percent of millennials are open to switching jobs, and only half say they plan to be with their current job a year down the line. Yet the same Gallup poll suggests engaged millennials are more loyal. It found those who are engaged are 64 percent less likely to consider a job change than those who are disengaged.
How do you engage them? While the report lists key retention drivers among millennials — an emphasis on work/life balance, a sense of purpose, an approachable manager, opportunities to learn and grow — it omits one vital factor we see in companies across many verticals willing to try new ways to motivate and retain millennials: technology.
Why Step Back In Time When You Go To Work?
In a study conducted by Verint and Opinium Research on balancing the demand for digital and human customer service, it was clear millennial consumers are far more likely to engage with companies — including brick and mortar and online retailers — via digital channels, and are more likely to provide feedback via social media. When investigating new products, Baby Boomers (ages 51 to 70) and the Silent Generation (70 and older) are happy to pick up the phone or go in a store, while Millennials and Generation X (ages 36 to 50) prefer web self-service and give particularly high marks to mobile apps by a wide margin over any other age groups.
Smart businesses take their cue from how millennials use technology as consumers to replicate the experience in the workplace. They look to incorporate digital and mobile apps as an employee engagement tool. Generally speaking, millennials use the latest in technology in their everyday lives, so why should they have to go back in time a decade or more when they go to work? The good news is technology is available now that will incorporate digital and mobile into the everyday work experience and enable companies to communicate via channels that fit the millennial lifestyle and boost performance.
Examples Of Engaging Technology
Millennials working in retail stores should be armed with apps that enable them to access customer information on their tablets or smartphones. They provide better service when information about a customer’s last purchase or last Facebook comment about the store is available at their fingertips:
Employees can also deliver a seamless experience when a holistic record of all a customer’s interactions with a company — Twitter, phone, webchat, and so on — are available for viewing in a centralized location. For example, no matter how a customer inquiry about an order arrives — whether in person, by phone or webchat — the apps allow an employee to track order history immediately. Cross-channel integration is something employees of all ages appreciate, but for millennials, it’s par for the course, a feature any company worth its salt should make available to employees. And you know what? They’re exactly right!
After work, when they get home, employees can use another app on their mobile device work schedules when a friend calls to arrange a dinner date the following week, or to submit a request for time off if a family emergency arises. These apps can link to Performance Management systems, too, so the employees can keep tabs on their performance and the performance of their team.
Gamification Works, Too
Before reaching the age of 21, the average American has spent 2,000 to 3,000 hours reading books and more than three times that playing video games, according to an Inc.com report. That makes the average millennial a near-expert in gaming, so incorporating the elements of gaming into various aspects of work is proving to be a powerful engagement tool for them.
Gamification apps add fun to the equation, encouraging competition and camaraderie among employees while motivating and engaging them on a new level. In the contact center space, for example, gamification apps track metrics such as handle time or issue resolution time. Retail employees could track the number of upsells per month, customer reviews on social media that mention them by name, or number of customers served.
In addition to instilling a sense of friendly competition, gamification apps are a way to keep performance improvement on the uptick with a minimum of supervisor intervention. And because they integrate with more traditional Performance Management systems, they help managers stay up-to-date on how employees are measuring up against key benchmarks.
Co-browsing is another technology feature available today that helps give millennials an opportunity for closer customer involvement and interaction. If a customer is shopping online and has a question about an item or how to use the website, an agent in a contact center can see what’s on the customer’s screen and walk him or her through the process.
These apps increase efficiency, yes, but they also achieve a greater purpose: connection. They help the employees feel the company is in tune with the way they live, the way they want to work, rather than a dinosaur with technology their parents wouldn’t even want to use. That’s employee engagement defined in today’s terms.
Securely Leveraging BYOD
How many organizations will provide the apps that really make these devices useful in the workplace, or at home when the employee is working or needs to check on something that is work-related?
Many of the apps I’ve mentioned here leverage the BYOD trend, and with good reason. Smartphones and tablets are more capable and connected than full-fledged computers of the previous generation, and can be equipped to provide secure, anytime, anywhere access to appropriate workplace information. Employees increase productivity with user-friendly, consumer-like experiences they’ve come to expect on their devices. What’s more, they can work seamlessly across all devices — desktop, tablet, and smartphone — and conduct common activities on mobile devices, which is a preferred and “always available” means of communication.
The apps enable companies to extend mobile capabilities confidently to employees without compromising data security. Mobile gateways ensure no proprietary information is stored on the device.
In one case, a large American retailer invested in an engagement solution, including a unified desktop. This desktop provides employees with a modern interface allowing them a single application to complete customer service processes. Employees no longer needed to memorize complicated processes spanning multiple applications, or go searching around for customer data and other information. As a result of these investments, the retailer saw a $12 million savings in operational costs, as well as a $4 million increase in sales revenue.
Making Adjustments That Work For Today’s Business
Cisco studies show the majority of global web traffic will be mobile by 2019. Simply put, the world is going the way of millennials today, and smart companies are working now to incorporate more mobile into their business for engaging employees and customers.
There’s no doubt millennials have plenty to offer a busy warehouse, store or contact center, but to take full advantage of this group’s abilities, managers need to adjust their engagement approach. Putting emphasis on fostering employee engagement and satisfaction via regular communication is important, as is communicating via channels that fit the millennial lifestyle. As millennials become a larger share of the workforce, new management techniques to better address their habits and meet their needs will be required. These small changes will not only benefit the employees, but the level of customer satisfaction and, ultimately, the company’s bottom line.