Young people seeking mobility, connectivity

Many willing to take lower salary for greater flexibility: Survey
By Sarah Dobson
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 02/13/2012

Judging from a recent survey by Cisco Canada, HR has its work cut out for it when it comes to the technological preferences of younger workers.

Many feel they must have connectivity at all times through social media and mobile devices (which they choose); many desire flexibility when it comes to when and where they work; and many are not too worried about breaking the rules, found the survey of 2,800 students and employees under the age of 30 in 14 countries, including Canada.

“The Internet and social media tools have become such a main part of their life and not only how they interact socially but how they work on their assignments, how they deal with multi-tasking,” said Jeff Seifert, chief technology officer at Cisco Canada in Toronto. “Young Canadians, in particular, have become increasingly attached to mobile devices such as laptops and smartphones and the ability to access online content anywhere, anytime, from any device, whether for social or business reasons.”

When so much communication is happening through the Internet, it’s an absolutely necessary part to life, said Lauren Friese, founder of TalentEgg in Toronto, a job site and career resource for students and new graduates.

“This is the first time in the history of the workplace where people personally own devices that they need to do their work at home. You have a phone, you have your own computer, you have all these things. All these things like flex workplaces, flex-days and all that kind of stuff is now possible and it wasn’t before.”

More than one-quarter (29 per cent) of Canadian students and employees would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer, according to the survey. And 34 per cent of Canadian students and 52 per cent of Canadian employees would accept a lower-paying job that had more of this flexibility, found the survey.

“When we go to hire young students… that’s absolutely one of the factors in terms of people coming on board,” said Seifert. “They’re often much more concerned with that than salary. So we’re starting to see that in a much larger way.”

And employers are responding when it comes to devices, according to a Dell survey of 8,360 people worldwide. Almost one-third (31 per cent) of more than 500 Canadian employees surveyed have the option to choose the type of computer or technology provided by their employer and that’s expected to rise to 43 per cent.

“Increasingly, employers are much more focused on giving employees the tools they need to thrive, to be successful and to be productive. And to do that right, that means involving employees much more in that decision process and, in many cases, allowing them to make the choice,” said Paul D’Arcy, executive director of large enterprise marketing at Dell in Austin, Texas.

But if Canadian students encounter a company that bans access to social media, 38 per cent said they would not accept the job offer or find a way to circumvent the policy, found Cisco. And more than one-half (58 per cent) said they plan to ask about social media usage policies during job interviews.

But Friese said she is surprised by that number.

“I can’t imagine a young person going into an interview at KPMG, where they’re dying to get a job, and saying, ‘By the way, do you let me use Facebook while I’m at work?’” she said. “I can’t imagine someone being so entitled in their interview.”

A further 27 per cent of Canadian employees said the absence of remote access to corporate networks and applications could see them leaving a company sooner, slacking off or declining job offers outright, found Cisco. And almost one-fifth (18 per cent) of Canadian students (compared to 29 per cent of global students) feel that once they begin working, it will be their right, more than a privilege, to be working remotely with a flexible schedule.

But that doesn’t sound right, said Friese, as it would be crazy to decline a job because it requires you to be in the office.

“The part that’s right about that is absolutely it will influence their decision to either take or stay with the job if they can’t work at night, if they can’t work at home, if they can’t access email on the weekend. If I were that person… that would reduce my ability to do a good job.”

However, there can be downsides to remote access, according to Dell’s survey. Forty-three per cent of respondents said they find it hard to switch off from work and 48 per cent said they have too much work to do in one day.

“With the ability to control more of the way you spend your time and what you do at work — and to be measured more based on what you accomplish and the outputs that are achieved, as opposed to time sitting at a desk — with that comes additional responsibilities, additional pressures and additional stress with the job that didn’t exist before, so certainly there’s a trade-off that will be hard for some workers,” said D’Arcy.

When it comes to security and IT policies, 72 per cent of Canadian employees admitted to breaking policy with “varying regularity,” found Cisco.

Providing flexibility and connectivity to employees is important but it has to be balanced against having a workforce that appreciates IT policy and understands the boundaries, said Seifert.

Privacy and security are definitely not as top-of-mind for this generation as previous ones, said Friese.

“Social networking in general and the ubiquity of the Internet in our everyday lives has changed attitudes towards that kind of personal privacy and security in general.”

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