Millennials: How To Engage Them In The Enterprise

Rick Knowles

In today’s digital economy, do you struggle to retain millennial employees?

Millennials, those young professionals aged around 20 to 35, now outnumber baby boomers in the workforce. A recent Forbes article states that 60% of millennials leave their jobs in less than three years, which costs most companies $15-25,000 to replace each millennial employee they lose.

At the same time, it can be challenging to keep aging employees motivated and engaged in their roles. In the report, 71% of companies say losing millennials in the workplace increases the workload and stress level of remaining employees.

To address the financial burden and morale hit resulting from millennial turnover, companies need to take action to keep employees motivated, engaged, and interested in their jobs. Besides the obvious HR strategies that focus on retention, it’s also crucial to have an engaging and innovative mobile strategy.

The mobile revolution

Last year, 65% of online traffic came from mobile devices, according to an Entrepreneur.com article. The amount of time people in the U.S. spend on digital media has increased by more than 50% in the past three years, and 90% of that growth is directly related to mobile apps, according to comScore’s 2016 U.S. Mobile App Report.

In light of these statistics, enterprise mobility is on the upsurge as business leaders realize the importance of having a mobile strategy in today’s digital era. A recent 451 Research report states that 70% of responding businesses have a corporate mobile strategy in place, and it predicts that smartphone use will grow to eventually become the primary channel that businesses use to engage with partners, employees, and customers. Going mobile has also become easier than ever, with new developments in technology and agreements like the Apple-SAP partnership, which give developers the tools and training they need to build powerful native mobile apps for the enterprise.

Mobile is clearly the preferred digital technology – especially among the growing number of millennial employees in the workforce – so bringing the mobile experience into the enterprise is important to help your business thrive going forward.

Mobile millennials

Millennials lead the way when it comes to mobile technology. According to a recent article on mobile app use, millennials spend a staggering 90 hours per month on smartphone apps alone, and two-thirds of their digital media minutes are with mobile technology.

These tech-savvy millennials want to work the way they live. They are accustomed to intuitive, up-to-date user experiences with mobile apps on their smartphones and tablets, but at work they’re often expected to use older, less optimal applications. Millennials quickly grow tired of working with archaic systems, so they look for job opportunities at more innovative digital companies. Business leaders need to realize this and pursue a millennial mobile strategy that simplifies work and empowers a multigenerational workforce.

Since millennials now make up the largest generational group in the workforce, it’s not surprising that millennial trends are starting to influence workplace trends. According to the Arcadis report, 2016 Trends in the Workplace, the current generational breakdown in the workplace is as follows:

  • 35% millennials (approximate ages 20-35)
  • 34% Generation X (approx. 35-50)
  • 29% baby boomers (approx. 50-70)
  • 2% others (called Silents or Veterans in the study)

Engaging all generations in the workforce

The EY report, The Upside of Disruption, states that the millennial-dominated workforce will reinvent the workplace. The workplace is where millennials feel the most influential and accountable, according to The Deloitte Millennial Survey 2017, so employers should strive to build on that sense of purpose to create a more engaged millennial workforce via mobile technology.

Meanwhile, what does this mean for the other generations in the workforce? While it’s fair to say that millennials are proficient with mobile apps, they’re not the only generation willing to use digital technology. For example, millennials are not the heaviest users of social media. Based on the 2016 Nielsen Social Media Report, Gen Xers spend the most time on social media, at almost 7 hours per week (millennials are a close second, at just over 6 hours per week).

What’s the common denominator? Engagement. Regardless of age, if someone is interested in what the technology offers, they will use it. The key is to engage employees with mobile technology that makes their job quicker, easier, more interesting, and simply better.

Mobile apps focused on the user

How do you design the best contextual native enterprise apps to appeal to all generations in today’s workforce? Focus on the user, whether the user is an employee, a partner, or a customer. A mobile app that’s created around the user will lead to greater adoption, increased engagement, and more employee satisfaction, which in turn will result in less employee turnover, greater cost savings, streamlined workflows, and higher productivity.

Adopting new mobile apps is fairly easy to do for millennials, according to SAP user interface designer Bernadette Faller (who happens to be a millennial herself). Faller works with multiple companies to develop intuitive mobile apps through the Apple and SAP partnership. She says millennial employees quickly adopt mobile technology because they are not intimidated by it: “We use tech each and every day. It’s part of our lives. It’s how we view the world and how we interact with people.”

While Gen Xers and baby boomers in the workforce may be a bit more hesitant about adopting an enterprise app, Faller says designing it around the employee role can help by clearly demonstrating its benefits.

“We help bridge the gap between millennials and older generations by focussing on what they really need for the role,” Faller explains. “Older people I interact with often try to stay away from new technology because it can be difficult for them to continuously learn and adapt to rapid advancements that occur. We need to be mindful and empathetic to how users interact with technology, and the role of technology in their environment. As a designer, it’s critical to understand the users’ roles to make technology less intimidating and easy to use.”

Mobile apps for the digital age

In the end, age doesn’t matter when it comes to mobile success. Think about it: If any mobile app is too complex, it will frustrate users of all ages, and they won’t want to engage with it. On the other hand, apps that are completely designed to make users’ jobs easier and better will boost overall engagement. Having empathy for users and understanding their roles when designing and developing enterprise mobile apps is the best way to ensure high adoption rates, and ultimately, to ensure the success of mobile apps to improve workflows and increase employee engagement.

Whether your workplace is full of millennials, Gen Xers, baby boomers, or a combination of all three, enterprise mobile apps can benefit your employees and your business. It’s not about designing a mobile app for employees of a certain age; it’s about implementing a strong mobile strategy and designing suitable, innovative enterprise apps for all your employees in the digital age.

Learn how the Apple and SAP partnership is revolutionizing mobile apps for the enterprise.

Find out more about the latest developments regarding the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS and the SAP Academy for iOS.

Learn more about the future of IoT and mobility.

For an in-depth look at how the digital era is affecting business, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.


Rick Knowles

About Rick Knowles

Rick Knowles is senior vice president (SVP) and general manager (GM) of the partnership between SAP SE and Apple, Inc. In this role, he oversees the strategic roadmap in building state-of-the-art applications for some of the most complex business systems in the world. Rick has been with SAP for close to 20 years, where he has held executive positions such as SVP and chief of staff, GM of One Customer Experience, and SVP and chief operating officer for SAP Americas, the company’s largest geographic market. You can follow him on Twitter @RickKnowlesSAP.