Preparing for your future workforce: Is your IT plan ready?

ThinkstockPhotos-84464529We have all been involved in conversations around the changing landscape of the US workforce. Experienced, skilled staff will soon be retiring in droves, and a younger generation of workers — whose employment expectations we don’t fully understand — are on their way into the talent pool. Younger workers have always had access to technology, and their technology expectations are often higher because of it. The question now is whether we, as employers, are ready to attract and retain the youngest employees. And more specifically, are our technology systems, staff and processes ready to meet their expectations and capabilities?

With the issuance of two Randstad studies, the mystery has cleared a bit about what Gen Z and their older counterparts, Gen Y, also known as Millennials, want from their work experiences. Randstad’s generational study provides great insight on the preferences of those aged 16–20 (Gen Z) and those 21–32 (Gen Y).

For example, over 80 percent of both generations report they like to work with technology to help them accomplish their goals. Because these groups have grown up with fingertip access to laptops, tablets and smartphones, that figure probably does not come as a surprise. What may be unexpected, however, is that many employers have not yet prepared for the evolving technology needs and expectations of younger workers. In a recent study about how millennials are affecting companies’ IT strategies,  31 percent of employers admit they have not yet addressed the younger generations’ IT needs in any formal way. Only 32 percent of organizations feel very or extremely confident that their current level of IT staff will meet upcoming demands, and less than a quarter (22 percent) believe strongly that their current staff’s skill sets are adequate to support the younger generations’ needs.

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Where should we focus?

It’s important for IT teams to understand their expertise and their systems’ capabilities as we look to a changing workforce.  For example, when asked about what they want from a work space, less than half of Gen Y employees (46 percent) and 16 percent of Gen Z employees prefer to work in a corporate office. Although having remote staff is not a new concept for employers, the potential for remote workers to comprise the majority might be. To prepare for a larger remote workforce, employers should ask if video conferencing channels and equipment are available and up to par and if data and systems can be accessed from anywhere, at any time.

Our IT survey reveals that mobile technology, communication and collaboration tools and security management round out the top three technologies that organizations feel are essential to creating an effective and efficient environment for today’s tech-dependent workers. For staffing organizations, security expertise is expected to be the most in-demand IT skill set for companies preparing for their future workforce. Data analytics and cloud experience follow. By ramping up staff’s proficiency in key areas now, organizations can alleviate an avoidable urgency later.

It’s not just about our staff

While it’s important to assess how prepared we are to support our own organizations’ next wave of employees, we can’t overlook the fact that these individuals eventually will be our clients and our talent. Therefore, providing an insightful user experience with web-based platforms and customer systems is required. Websites must be mobile optimized. Digital strategies must constantly evolve and be promoted through innovative channels. The job application process must be seamless and intuitive. Communication must come in forms that the younger generations have adopted. Oftentimes, IT teams play a critical role in bringing such project plans to fruition, and it’s important to map out priorities and timelines.

Next steps

My immediate recommendation to prepare for the incoming, highly tech-savvy workforce is to take a good look at your current IT staff and understand the outsourcing models you currently use. Will you need to increase headcount? If so, what is the most efficient and cost-effective way to do so? Determine if your staff’s expertise matches your future needs. Audit your systems to see where upgrades, a tweak in user experience or a complete overhauling may be necessary. See where you may have gaps and create a plan to bridge them.

MORE: Essential soft skills for managers

Bob Dickey

Bob Dickey
Bob Dickey is group president, technology & engineering for Randstad US.

Bob Dickey

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One Response to “Preparing for your future workforce: Is your IT plan ready?”

  1. Candice Trebus says:

    Interesting study. 
    I recently came across a podcast that indicated that the digital proficiency of Millennials did not adequately match the demands of a digital workplace.
    The podcast discussed the U.S. high school environment and how we’re not teaching students basic computer literacy: security, law, problem solving, etc… the podcast went on to imply that students overestimate their digital skills. 
    For example, they were unable to find relevant information in an Excel spreadsheet by sorting rows or columns, and even more difficulty getting that spreadsheet information into an email and sending it to the person who asked for it.
    Presentation/Podcast here if you’re interested:

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