Today's talent pool is better educated and more tech-savvy than ever. They use various technologies as consumers and in their personal lives, and they expect employers to have the same level of comfort with technology as they do.
If you talk to someone who was managing an older baby-boomer workforce during the late 1980s or early 1990s, you will likely hear tales of employees who just could not seem to adapt to new technology. You might hear about workers who had difficulty grasping the difference between formatting a floppy and formatting a hard drive, whose typewriters had to be smuggled out in the middle of the night to force them to use a PC or who argued that "Password" was a perfectly acceptable password for logging onto the system.
Fast-forward to 2015. The boomers are nearing retirement or have already retired. The up-and-coming generation is Generation Y, also called millennials. This generation grew up surrounded by new technology — the Internet, smartphones, video game consoles, tablets, kiosks and more. They are accustomed to researching, buying and reviewing products online as well as paying their bills, filing their tax returns and handling banking transactions in cyberspace. They are active on the social media sites, play multiplayer online games and are as likely to purchase an ebook as a hardcover version of the latest best-seller.
As of 2010, millennials accounted for 25 percent of the United States workforce, according to Catalyst.org. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that by 2025, millennials will account for 75 percent of the American workforce.
This is not to imply that Gen Xers are not tech savvy — they are. Different studies have indicated that Generation X is almost as tech savvy as millennials, more tech savvy than millennials or equal to millennials when it comes to comfort with technology. Generation Xers may have been exposed to technology a little later in life than millennials, but they made up for lost time. Generation X accounted for 32 percent of the workforce in 2010.
What all this means is that approximately 57 percent of the workforce in 2010 was comprised of employees who were comfortable with technology and made extensive use of it in their personal lives. This percentage has no doubt increased over the past few years and will continue to increase over the next decade.
Despite the ever-expanding number of employees and potential employees who are very involved with technology, many HR departments have failed to adapt accordingly. Requiring candidates to mail resumes or complete application forms, ignoring the opportunities to use text messaging to communicate with employees, overlooking the advantages of online training or forcing staff members to make do with obsolete tools are not going to help you build a stable, loyal workforce.
Bringing HR into the modern world of technology involves more than just providing employees with the opportunities to use their tech skills on the job. HR has to start leveraging technology in their own jobs as well.
· Use the social media sites to allow potential employees to "get to know you" before you try to recruit them. Choose your messages carefully, focusing on topics such as your corporate culture, company vision or community involvement.
· Whenever possible, empower employees by giving them the flexibility to use digital technology to perform their jobs easier, faster or better. Do not insist on a procedure just because "that is how we have always done it."
· Find ways to engage employees through technology. For example, use online surveys to solicit honest opinions from workers who need not worry that they might be identified. When inclement weather is forecast, notify employees via text instead of trying to phone them all.
· When planning your training schedule, include some options for employees who want to enhance their tech skills. Offer opportunities for employees to choose courses that are relevant to the long-term goals of the business.
Technology has disrupted more than one business model, and it is sure to continue to prove disruptive. No department can afford to ignore the advantages that the technical revolution has brought, least of all the department that is most involved in securing and retaining the most important asset your company has — its people.
If you would like to learn more about adapting HR to leverage technology, contact FirstJob.com for help.