Comms-care Blog

How Generation Y and cloud computing is making flexible working de rigeur

by Richard Eglon

May 13, 2014

In 2005, Steve Jobs was invited to reflect upon his life and career in a commencement address at Stanford University. He told the group of graduates that life should be lived with purpose and that the focus of work was to find what you love. "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today? Whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something,” he told the audience.

The whole idea of changing jobs and reflecting on one’s life-balance was something previous generations weren’t encouraged to do. Post-war economies were driven by baby boomers that were fed the notion of a job for life and employment was a means to an end. It didn’t matter if you liked work – it was something you had to do.  Work was life and life was work.

Fast forward to today and companies are faced with a new breed of workers- the so-called generation Y staff that were born after the 1980s. Generation Y-also known as Millennials- like what Steve Jobs had to say – and they don’t see work the same way their parents did. Generation Y work to have the opportunity to do other things; they work because they like what they do. Nothing is permanent- it’s all about creating options to live a life they want. 

How can the cloud, therefore, help companies manage the needs of generation Y for the benefit of their organisation? If they are going to attract the right talent, they have to be accommodating to them. This is a generation that wants flexible working and career breaks; the ability to host conference calls on the train or at home while the new born is asleep.  They are the generation that expects access to content anywhere and at any time, and to have access to devices on many different platforms.

We know the answer already to the cloud question – it’s given us freedom, access and possibility-the three things that generation Y crave and expect.  Cloud providers are also investing vast sums trying to improve services and to make it easier -and cheaper- for companies to offer their services.

HP, for example, recently announced it plans to spend more than US$1 billion over the next two years to develop and offer open source cloud-computing products and services.   The company is following the lead of other players, such as Cisco, which has also pledged US$1 billion to build a “network of clouds” known as InterCloud to keep up with the competition.  What these providers realise is that the challenges of cloud have grown to include support for multiple devices in a hybrid environment- and they are bending over backwards to offer this service. Why? Because businesses have no choice.  Companies have to offer flexibility to employees.

But is this enough to keep generation Y happy?

Forbes recently published an article highlighting managers’ concerns over Generation Y’s attitudes to work and how some businesses find it difficult to ‘engage’ with Millenials.  The piece offered some suggestions to motivate this workforce, such as listening and adapting to their needs but there are still tremendouslevels of frustration and dissatisfaction among this group of future leaders.

Cloud is giving Millennials what they supposedly want - freedom and choice- but winning their hearts and minds might take a lot more to achieve than simply letting employees work from home.