AN EMERGING BREED OF MOBILE WORKER
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
WHICH OF THE FOLLOWING TECHNOLOGY DEVICES HAVE YOU BROUGHT OR BEEN GIVEN IN THE PAST TWELVE MONTHS?