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The workforce of the future will live in the cloud

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By Stuart King, Director, Precision Workstation, Client Solutions, Dell Asia Pacific and Japan, Dell

With millennials entering the workforce in large numbers, managers and HR professionals have been forced to develop new tools for employee engagement. Millennials, who will make up approximately 75 percent of the global workforce by 2025 [PDF], have grown up in the Internet era and thus staying connected has become second nature. Digital habits such as they tweeting and texting, and surfing websites like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Wikipedia, are a norm of their social lives and their search for knowledge, according to a study by Pew Research Center.

Transformational technologies such as cloud computing and mobile applications support the constantly connected lifestyle of millennials. On top of redesigning the workplace to fulfil the expectations of millennial employees, companies are turning to Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions to improve productivity – with Forrester projecting that the worldwide enterprise SaaS spending will reach $620 billion in 2015. By harnessing theattributes of cloud such as user-centricity, flexibility and mobility, organizations can benefit from retaining millennials in the workforce with future-ready enterprises.

Design to win

The design of the workplace needs to put employees first, ensuring they have the necessary tools to work efficiently. According to a study by Cushman & Wakefield’s Global Business Consulting, the older generations of employees adapt to the workplace, but millennials expect the workplace to be adapted to their preferences.

By utilising cloud technologies, offices can adopt an open concept where employees may not necessarily be assigned to a fixed workstation, especially in organizations where employees have to travel between multiple offices frequently. The practice of ‘hot desking’, a concept where employees sit at any free desk or work from remote locations, has gained traction in a number of multi-national corporations today. This arrangement has been made possible with advancements in mobile devices such as laptops and Chromebooks, which are easily portable and cloud computing which allows employees to access files from anywhere.

Millennials on the move

Cloud allows teams to connect reliably and securely to corporate servers from wherever they are, at home, at a café, or at the office. This is essential for millennials. According to data on Millennials’ behavior towards technology compiled by AdWeek, millennials can and do work anywhere and anytime – they love mobile technology, and 52 percent use smartphones while 61 percent use tablets.

According to the Cloud Adoption Report conducted by cloud access security broker Bitglass, 48 percent of the 120,000 businesses surveyed employed a cloud application as their prime productivity tool.Companies are adopting cloud-based software and mobile platforms that give the workforce remote access to their work without sacrificing the security of a company. While fulfilling the workforce’s demands for enterprise mobility, companies need to formulate bring your own device (BYOD) policies for accessing sensitive corporate information; managing updates to that device; and safeguarding the data if it is lost or stolen. Asset management, mobile security, mobile application management and application performance management solutions are critical.

To truly secure their information, companies need employees, partners and others with access to their data to understand, embrace and comply with well-articulated security policies and protocols. The policies and the technology that enforce security must be easy to use and not be barriers to productivity. Creating this “culture of security” requires a comprehensive, end-to-end strategy, tailored to the unique business requirements of each organization and supported by top management.

Flexible arrangements to suit different working styles

Cloud can also be used to support the demands of the different employee cohorts. Millennials prefer to collaborate and more than half of them would rather text than converse in person, whereas Generation Xers are considered more independent.

Opportunities to work in teams can satisfy millennials and Boomers, especially if most of the communication is through instant messaging and email. With cloud, information is centralized and easily accessible which invites collaboration amongst colleagues as well as departments. Technologies such as Google Docs and Sharepoint that enables teams to work on the same document through the cloud, and Yammer or Slack that share project information quickly through social network setups, help teams collaborate with increased effectiveness.

While technologies can transform the workplace in relation to broad generational characteristics, it should be emphasized that there is no ‘one size fits all’ strategy for effective management. With cloud, companies get the flexibility to adopt the workplace to different requirements. Acting on the needs of the diverse workforce keeps organizations at the top of “Best Companies to Work For” lists, while watching satisfaction and productivity skyrocket.

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