Don’t Blame the Millennials for Demanding Self-Service Technology

By BJ Johnson

Millennials take center stage when there is conversation about changes in the workforce and rightfully so. These digital natives represent 35% of the workforce and are the single largest generation in history.  They’ve grown up in world where “there’s an app for that” and they expect to do everything at a moment’s notice on any kind of device that they choose.  Flexibility in the workplace has been adopted as an expectation rather than viewed as a perk or reward. 

People want to be able to take time off during the week and catch up on work on the weekend.  As HR departments make plans to increase self-service the finger points to Millennials for one of the reasons.  There is some truth in that but I think we owe Millennials a big “Thanks” for stepping up and asking for self-service technology that fits the flexible work schedule most of us are working these days.  Let’s face it Generation X has adopted many of the same traits as Millennials. Who doesn’t like working on their favorite mobile device at home, work or traveling?  If an executive can’t read and sign something on his or her mobile device it’s likely to fall to the bottom of the list of things to get done, which leads to further setbacks and inefficiencies.     

While Millennials have the expectation of self-service when using work applications, there is another shift in the workforce driving the need for self-service, the increasing number of remote workers.  Work is no longer a place we go, it’s what we do.  Telecommuting, virtual employees and a growing contingent workforce continue to increase the amount of time and number of employees working outside of the traditional office environment. The US Department of Labor estimates about 80% of companies augment their workforce with non-traditional staff including temporary and contract workers who will spend most of their time working remotely.  FlexJobs is an online job listing board for telecommuting, flexible schedules and freelance jobs. Based on an analysis of the 30,000 companies in its database from 2014-2015 there has been a 26% increase in jobs posted from companies like Amazon, IBM, ADP, Apple and others. Many of these virtual and contingent employees will have limited access to HR and may not have a company email address.  It’s also likely many of these remote workers will be using their own devices, as we witness the growing trend of BYOD to the workplace. In these situations self-service can help create that digital connection between HR and the remote workforce.  Self-service should enable employees to access, review and sign important documents without printing or downloading forms, all while keeping the documents safe and secure of course!  All the work should be done on the mobile device and when completed the documents should automatically be routed to HR or a manager. 

The challenges associated with a dispersed or remote workforce is nothing new for global organizations or industries such as grocery, retail, hospitality, manufacturing and service companies. The employees on the shop floor and on the road present similar challenges to a remote worker because access to computers and networks can be very limited.

So let’s cut Millennials some slack on this one.  Yes, they expect self-service to support their flexible work style as they walk the work-life balance tightrope, but aren’t we all in the same boat? Taking work home, calls with clients and vendors in other time zones and working remote has made most 9-5 jobs a thing of the past.  Freelance and contract workers along with virtual employees will continue to drive the demand for self-service so HR must deploy technology that can be accessed anywhere, any time and on any device.


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