Social, mobility at work important to younger gen

College students and young employees prefer work environments that embrace social media, device freedom and remote access, and see these as key factors when deciding on future jobs, reveals new study.
Written by Ellyne Phneah, Contributor

The ability to utilize social media, mobile devices and the Internet more freely in the workplace is a key factor for young professionals and college students when it comes to deciding which job offer to accept, finds a new study which adds that this may be a greater factor than renumeration.

According to the report released by Cisco Systems, an open work environment that accomodates social media, device choice flexibility as well as demands to work remotely is important to future generations in the workforce. Mobile networking, device flexibility and the blending of personal and work lifestyles have become key components of a work environment and culture that are increasingily important in determining which companies will land the next wave of industry talent, the networking giant said.

The study found that about 33 percent of college students and young employees under the ages of 30 said they would prioritize social media freedom, device flexibility and work mobility over salary in accepting a job offer. This indicated that the expectations and priorities of the next generation of the global workforce would not focus only on monetary factors.

More than two in five college students and young employees, or 40 percent and 45 percent, respectively, added that they would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility when it came to device choice, social media access and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility. Some 56 percent of college students also indicated that if they encountered a company that banned access to social media, they would either not accept the job offer or would join the organization but find a way to cirucumvent such corporate policies.

The survey also found that the days of single device ownership were over as more than three out of every four employees carried multiple devices such as a laptop and smartphone, or multiple phones, and computers. Sine 33 percent used at least three devices for work.

About 68 percent believed their companies should allow them to access social media and personal sites with their work-issued devices, and more than two out of five college students believed companies should be flexible and empathetic to their need to stay connected via social media and personal Web sites.

"The findings provide real-life insights into how information is accessed by college students and young IT professionals, and how business communications are changing as a result," Sujai Hajela, vice president and general manager of Cisco's wireless networking business unit, said in the report. "[Other] than the impact on business communications, the study provides proof that the next generation of employees and their technology demands will influence job decisions, hiring and a new age of work balance."

Hajela noted that how businesses addressed these demands would inevitably affect their competitive advantage and HR (human resource) success. "It is not just a technology trend anymore--it's a business trend," he said.

The study, commissioned by Cisco and conducted by market research firm InsightExpress, surveyed over 2,800 college students and young professionals in 14 countries including India, China, Japan and Australia. It aimed to understand challenges companies faced as they strived to balance employee and business needs with increasing network demands, mobile capabilities, security risks and technologies that could deliver applications and information more dynamically.

Preference for workplace flexibility, remote access
In addition, employees today expect greater work flexibility. According to the study, at least one in four employees, or 29 percent, globally indicated that the absence of remote access would influence their job decisions, such as leaving companies sooner rather than later, slacking off or declining job offers outright. Similarly, 29 percent felt that it was their right--more than a privilege--to work remotely and on a flexible schedule.

Seventy percent of college students also believed it was unnecessary to be physically in the office regularly, with the exception of an important meeting. In fact, one in four felt that their productivity would increase if they were allowed to work from home or remotely. Such sentiments were also shared by employees, where 69 percent believed office attendance on a regular basis was unnecessary.

About 64 percent of college students and employees wanted to access corporate information over corporate networks using their home computers, while 51 percent wanted the same access on personal mobile devices. In future, the next generation of the global workforce would expect to access corporate networks and appliances on numerous non-company devices such as car navigation screens, seatback screens on airplanes and televisions.

In contrast, the Cisco report last year showed that 60 percent of employees of all ages believed it was unnecessary to be confined to an office. The 2011 findings indicated that the expectation of the next generation workforce is increasingly emphasizing work flexibility, mobility and non-traditional workstyles.

"The findings demonstrate how companies need to acknowledge this fact in greater numbers, and respond accordingly," noted Sheila Jordan, Cisco's vice president of communication and collaboration IT. "For many industries, the status quo of previous work environments is becoming a thing of the past." 

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