Qatar Today - - DEVELOPMENT > TECH TALK - By Damian Rad­cliffe

Tech­nol­ogy is chang­ing the out­look and ex­pec­ta­tions of many young work­ers, and em­ploy­ers need to be aware of these shift­ing bound­aries.

Re­cent re­search by Aruba Net­works has iden­ti­fied a new breed of global em­ployee the #GenMo­bile. This group com­prises in­di­vid­u­als who are of­ten, but not al­ways in the early stages of their ca­reers. They have a strong pref­er­ence not just for mo­bile de­vices, but also for mo­bil­ity in their work­ing habits.

The find­ings of this re­search re­in­force the con­clu­sions found in a num­ber of re­cent re­gional sur­veys by Bayt, Oore­doo and the con­sul­tancy Booz & Co, as well as global stud­ies con­ducted by com­pa­nies like Cisco. For com­pa­nies, these re­peated re­sults high­light some of the chal­lenges busi­nesses face in terms of IT se­cu­rity, as well as per­son­nel at­trac­tion and re­ten­tion. Given their re­cur­rence, they are trends which few or­gan­i­sa­tions can choose to ig­nore.

#GenMo­bile is su­per-con­nected

Nearly two-thirds of this group in Aruba's study own con­nected mo­bile de­vices, with 9% say­ing they have more than seven such de­vices, and 39% own­ing more than four. As a re­sult, a third of this group spend over a third of their time on mo­bile de­vices such as smart­phones and tablets. Given this pro­lif­er­a­tion it's no won­der that many of these tech own­ers feel bereft with­out their de­vices.

A 2011 study by the Univer­sity of Mary­land, which asked more than 1,000 stu­dents from 10 coun­tries around the world to go me­dia free for 24 hours, found that many par­tic­i­pants re­ported a phys­i­o­log­i­cal

re­ac­tion dur­ing this pe­riod; akin to the “phan­tom limb” syn­drome ex­pe­ri­enced by some am­putees.

And when asked to choose be­tween giv­ing up cof­fee or their mo­bile, the #GenMo­bile em­ploy­ees in­di­cated that they were 15 times more likely to give up their morn­ing latte. Other sur­veys have con­sis­tently found that young peo­ple are least likely to want to give up their phone and their In­ter­net con­nec­tion, when com­pared to other me­dia plat­forms.

High tech pro­lif­er­a­tion in the Mid­dle East

Per­haps not sur­pris­ingly, of the coun­tries sur­veyed by Aruba, own­er­ship of mo­bile prod­ucts in gen­er­ally high­est in the Mid­dle East, with MENA mem­bers of #GenMo­bile be­ing amongst the most hy­per-con­nected tech­nol­ogy users any­where in the world. As we re­ported last month, UAE en­joys the high­est level of smart­phone pen­e­tra­tion in the world, ahead of more tra­di­tion­ally high­tech na­tions like Ja­pan, Sin­ga­pore or South Korea.

Oore­doo's re­cent re­port into dig­i­tal at­ti­tudes and as­pi­ra­tions across the re­gion “New Hori­zons” dug deeper into this phe­nom­e­non and found that 70% of youth in GCC own a smart­phone, com­pared with 47% in Le­vant and 42% in North Africa. In Qatar this fig­ure was slightly higher than the GCC av­er­age, with 72% of youth in Qatar us­ing a smart­phone, and 22% a tablet.

In line with this, in terms of mul­ti­ple de­vices, 85% of UAE par­tic­i­pants in the #GenMo­bile sur­vey claimed that they owned three or more con­nected de­vices, in­clud­ing a 42% own­er­ship of tablets. Saudi Ara­bia, at 82%, had sim­i­lar lev­els of mo­bile own­er­ship, with 31% hav­ing a tablet de­vice as part of their mo­bile mix.

24/7 con­nec­tiv­ity is chang­ing at­ti­tudes to the work­place

As eMar­keter re­cently noted when com­pared to the av­er­age con­sumer “tablet own­ers over in­dex in tech de­vice us­age.” A 2013 sur­vey of Amer­i­can users found that “it's com­mon for tablet users to con­sume me­dia across four screens in a given month.” Con­se­quently, “given their pen­chant for web-en­abled de­vices, this co­hort is rarely ‘off the grid."

The im­pact of this is that #GenMo­bile is in­creas­ingly able to work from any­where. By be­ing able to stay con­nected on the move, as well as at home or in the of­fice, it is per­haps not sur­pris­ing that this is an em­ploy­ment group which has a very dif­fer­ent at­ti­tude to­wards the tra­di­tional phys­i­cal work­place.

One of the first sub­stan­tive hints of this could be seen in 2011, when Cisco's “Con­nected World Tech­nol­ogy Re­port” found that young peo­ple were al­ready fac­tor­ing in con­sid­er­a­tions such as so­cial me­dia free­dom, de­vice flex­i­bil­ity, and work mo­bil­ity when de­cid­ing where to work.

For a third of the peo­ple sur­veyed (across 14 dif­fer­ent coun­tries) these fac­tors were pri­ori­tised over the size of their pay­check. And as mo­bile be­comes more preva­lent both in terms of reach, pro­lif­er­a­tion of de­vices and costs con­nec­tion it's no sur­prise that this trend is con­tin­u­ing. Aruba's 2014 study, for ex­am­ple, found that over half of the 5,000+ re­spon­dents sur­veyed world­wide in­di­cated that they would rather have the op­por­tu­nity to work from home or re­motely two to three days a week, in lieu of re­ceiv­ing a 10% higher salary.

Sim­i­larly, in the Mid­dle East, Bayt's “Mil­len­ni­als in the Mena Sur­vey” found that not only did 76% of re­spon­dents be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy makes them more ef­fi­cient at work, but also that peo­ple value ca­reer growth and learn­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in a job more than they value “at­trac­tive salaries.”

What this may mean for em­ploy­ers

Given the high lev­els of per­sonal tech­nol­ogy many em­ploy­ees now have, the im­pact of this on em­ployee at­ti­tudes to their phys­i­cal workspace and the tech­nol­ogy they want to use to do their job would seem in­evitable. “BYOD [Bring Your Own De­vice] is al­ready well es­tab­lished in busi­nesses and still on the rise,” Charles McLel­lan, Re­views Edi­tor at ZDNet UK, has ar­gued, adding that the “con­sumeri­sa­tion of IT is not go­ing away.”

In fact, the preva­lence of this devel­op­ment is such that “en­ter­prise IT man­agers can­not sim­ply bury their heads in the sand,” says McLel­lan. As Cisco found back in 2011, 81% of col­lege stu­dents at that time wanted the flex­i­bil­ity to choose their own de­vice for their job, ei­ther by be­ing give a bud­get from an em­ployer to buy their own de­vice, or by us­ing their own tech­nol­ogy along­side com­pany-is­sued de­vices.

Aruba's study found that the im­por­tance em­ploy­ees at­tached to be­ing able to ac­cess fa­mil­iar and high qual­ity tech­nol­ogy at work was such that 38% of re­spon­dents stated they would rather be able to bring their own de­vice to work than have an of­fice with a win­dow.

Clearly there is a chal­lenge for em­ploy­ers in bal­anc­ing these em­ployee ex­pec­ta­tions with is­sues of se­cu­rity and com­pli­ance, but as Am­mar Enaya, re­gional direc­tor at Aruba Net­works Mid­dle East & Turkey sug­gests, this du­al­ity has “now be­come a way of life for those in the mod­ern work­force.” See­ing how these dy­nam­ics evolve and man­i­fest them­selves in the com­ing years is go­ing to be fas­ci­nat­ing to watch


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