Are Millennials Driving Open Source Adoption in the Workplace?

Many surveys today would claim that the millennial generation is a technology savvy and aware group. When it comes to open source, it’s observable—a major part of open source application users are under 30 years old, but an Accenture survey completed last year says that more than half of the millennial population that is entering the workforce is currently “either unaware of their companies’ information technology (IT) policies or are not inclined to follow them.”

Many surveys today would claim that the millennial generation is a technology savvy and aware group. When it comes to open source, it’s observable—a major part of open source application users are under 30 years old, but an Accenture survey completed last year says that more than half of the millennial population that is entering the workforce is currently “either unaware of their companies’ information technology (IT) policies or are not inclined to follow them.”

So, what could be contributing to this gap? Let’s explore a couple of areas.

While the rate at which new technologies are being developed is potentially faster than the U.S. National Texting Champion, on average the pace of corporate technology advancements are glacial in comparison. Millennials have grown up on technology, some of the younger ones (14-17) never having owned an audio CD, let alone a cassette tape and having always used open source technology and application like any others. Accenture’s survey points out some interesting findings that could be very informative to the great many IT (information technology) investment questions surrounding the workforce’s “digital divide” and how to conquer it in this tough economy.

  • 1. Millennials are pro-choice (technological, that is). From the day they were old enough to type there has always been a choice, from a variety of hardware options to multiple Internet service providers. Organizations should recognize this and strive to provide multiple platforms for the work environment. Some of the acquisition costs for this could be deferred by utilizing available open source applications.
  • 2. Get it now mentality. With 75percent of millennials reporting that they have used online collaborative tools and 19percent using open source technologies currently, many of this generation will often opt to spend more time finding a widget or application to do exactly what they need than spend the time retrofitting an existing application. Thus, if the workplace doesn’t offer what is needed, millennials will find a way to get it and usually for free. Harness this and offer an outlet for sharing open source innovations.
  • 3. Glossy gadgetry rules. Beyond technology choice and immediate gratification, millennials more than any other generation are proving to want state of the art equipment. More than half (52percent) responded that they would consider this before choosing an employer. If companies can’t afford to upgrade, consider allowing and perhaps even subsidizing young employees to use their own electronics.
  • 4. Millennials communicate in real time. Preferring instant messages and texts to email, millennials have come to expect support for such communication channels as part of the professional package and will likely use it whether the executive suite has approved it or not. Some open source applications can provide a framework or process for this without a large hit to the bottom line.
  • 5. Promote the policy. While most organizations have technology policies in place, 31percent of millennial respondents said they didn’t know what they were. Perhaps the communication point above should be moved to the top?
  • 6. Privacy, what’s that? 26percent of working millennials say they talk openly and freely about themselves and friends without thinking twice. In this case, there is likely an adjustment for both parties with the employee reeling it in for work-related matters and the organization opening up a bit around the sharing of information.

So, there is an evident push and pull between the millennials’ need for flexibility and speed and the greater organization’s need for responsibility and enterprise security. How does this shape up for decision making as boomers begin to retire and millennials infiltrate? The short of it seems that in order to acquire and retain the best talent, organizations must understand the technologies that the new workforce expects and then find a way to support their employees without compromising the bottom line.

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