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It's time to address the millennial in your boardroom

It's time to address the millennial in your boardroom
(Image credit: Pixabay)

Technology has become our lifeline in the past year – in all aspects of life. In business, as strategic plans shifted to support business survival, new technologies have been integral. But as with everything in business, its people at the helm. That’s why employees across every department, business, and industry are feeling under pressure.

While the stress and burnout of the last year will be felt to some degree by all workers, one might expect senior leaders to be able to weather the storm with ease, or millennial employees to cope better with the demands of remote working. In fact, our research found that millennial executives are struggling more than most.

This is surprising when you consider that millennials will account for 75% of the global workforce by 2025 – but even more than this, 68% feel they are actively encouraged to aim for leadership positions. Therefore, it’s never been more important to make younger decision-makers feel supported and motivated. Now is not the time lose staff or fail to lay a solid foundation for talent retention. It’s time to address the millennial leaders who will shape the future boardroom.

Boredom in the boardroom

Almost a year on from the first lockdown, many have succumbed to remote-working fatigue – and senior leaders are no exception. Our research showed that among UK senior decision-makers, difficulties collaborating with colleagues remotely, finding the motivation to work, and feeling productive were the most tiresome.

More and more pressing decisions puts on additional strain, meaning executives no longer have the bandwidth to dedicate time to some of the more day-to-day work they once did. An overwhelming majority of millennial executives say processes waste their time, and three-fifths says they make their job more challenging. It’s time for businesses to break the monotony.

It’s clear that businesses must invest in the tools that can alleviate the pressure of processes on their high-fliers. While only one-fifth of decision makers over-55 found processes a waste of time, the huge pressure younger executives are facing is a ticking time bomb: millennial executives will go on to lead the firm for decades to come and keeping them happy is critical. If they don’t feel supported, motivated and valued, you risk losing them to the competition.

The right tech, not the hyped tech

The last year has seen many firms pushed out of business, forced to put workers on furlough, or struggle to attract customers. Now, every financial decision must be carefully considered – and if a business wants to make a technology investment, they need to be confident in its benefits and the impact it will have.

A fundamental step for businesses will be understanding how each technology can improve productivity, and where it will have the most impact. UK senior decision-makers agreed that investing in the right smart technologies helps their business to work more efficiently, collaborate more efficiently, and ease the burden of administration. But the wrong technologies could compound a multitude of problems.

So, what is the smart investment? Businesses who are seeing the best results are those with the expertise and foresight to investigate further than just the hyped tech. The likes of RPA and AI can be transformative, but they have to be part of something bigger. Using just one or two types of automation without integrating the technologies that will help achieve business goals is a waste of time and money – two things that a business can’t afford post-pandemic.

Implementing the wrong mix of technologies causes major problems. Problems with business processes have notoriously caused huge bottlenecks and barriers – 1 in 4 UK workers admitted frustrating processes made them want to quit their jobs during the pandemic. Turning towards technologies can help. For example, process intelligence allows executives to discover and address the inefficiencies in their processes head on – helping to ease the burden of admin and allowing time to make better decisions and deal with any deluge of emergencies.

Don’t forget the human element

COVID-19 has taught us that soft skills, which have often been undervalued in the workplace, are equally as valuable as hard skills – even tech skills. Checking in on your colleagues or boosting morale with company-wide surprises helps to keep workers motivated, engaged and happy – all of which are key in improving retention and longevity.

In our hyper-connected world of AI and automation, the human element is more important than ever when we talk about what it means to be ‘future ready’. Knowing that even executives are struggling with motivation and feeling isolated at home is a healthy reminder to the wider workforce that in these unprecedented times, feeling overwhelmed or stressed is normal.

When implementing technologies to improve employees’ bandwidth, leaders need to be reminded that transitioning your organization into a digitally savvy workplace does not mean forgoing the importance of human connection. Technology should be an enabler for improving collaboration and productivity – not a barrier – in a remote, global workforce.

C-suite seat for technology

The pandemic has created room for new perspectives and insights, led by up-and-coming millennial executives. Just as well, since they will be the driving force behind the business for years to come – from championing digital solutions to being at the helm of new, ever-changing strategies.

However, without the right technologies in place behind them, and the time or inclination to understand which technologies will complement their business and workforce best, it’s futile. Every investment a business makes today needs to have an impact. Therefore, investing in people with technology is what will reap long-term rewards – and not simply be another added cost. Giving millennial decision-makers the tools to succeed will not only help them take a seat at the C-suite table – investing in them will be an investment into a brighter future for the business, too.

  • Neil Murphy, Global VP at ABBYY.