The decade could be messy for those organisations that fail to recognise the impending HR revolution and act upon it. And that action needs to take place now. This is according to a white paper by Orange Business Service, provocatively titled What Role for HR in 2020-2025.

The paper provides analysis aimed at understanding the new challenges to HR from the digital transformation and major societal changes, brought on by the generations entering the workplace. The main driver of change in the workplace is the entry of millennials into the workforce.

By 2020 they will make up half of the workforce and by 2025, they’ll dominate it with a 75% share of the jobs. Some positions that are popular with South African millennials include engineers, receptionists, call centre agents, accountants, teachers and entrepreneurs.

Their search for employment also goes global, as more than three-quarters of South Africans would be willing to relocate for the right job, with many even prepared to move to another country or continent in order to secure their preferred position.

Job mobility remains important for career advancement with millennials. This shifting of generations through the workforce is not new, however, it doesn’t always go smoothly as sometimes the new batch of working age employees aren’t able, culturally or otherwise, to continue the status quo.

This is true of the latest influx of youngsters who come via a totally different upbringing to those before them.

Unlike their predecessors, millennials have been familiar with and have used technology throughout childhood and adolescence.

Since an early age they’ve had access to the internet. As they’ve grown towards adulthood this has probably developed from occasional supervised connection to unsupervised and always on. Many will have had a smartphone or tablet since their early teens or even before.

They expect seamless access to the latest technology at work and at home and are very vocal and demanding when this expectation is not met.

Naturally, businesses must understand the specific expectations of the people composing this new generation: they are committed to businesses that share a commonality in their reason for existence; they enjoy working in teams, having fun, and communities; they want to play an active role in their own development; they are not loyal, and dream of creating their own start-up.

The South African workplace is being defined by technology and the Generation X and Y workers that are using it. The Internet of Everything (IoE) is enabling new forms of connectivity, changing communications and fostering new ways of working.

With the plethora of devices, apps and solutions now available and growing at a phenomenal rate, to remain relevant and competitive, employers in SA must move with the times, while striking a balance between current and future employees and business needs.

In light of SA’s 26.6% unemployment rate and the country’s influx of more young people entering the workplace, perhaps organisations should look towards adjusting to the culture of the upcoming generations in the traditional workspace.

To realise the benefit of the final phase of the demographic dividend, the South African economy needs to grow employment and improve the labour market prospects for younger working age people. The digital transformation of growing up is not the only difference with the latest additions to the workforce. They will not conform to the old order of work.

They do not hang around where they’re not happy, not properly equipped and not openly appreciated.

Even if you do look after their every need, they are still not loyal and do not see a problem with having four jobs on their CVs before their 25th birthday. They are not just mobile in an information technology sense, their careers are also mobile.

In Africa, the number of connections is growing every day. According to a study by wearesocial, there were 349 million active internet users in Africa, with 129 million active on social media. Further, 82% of the population use mobile connections, with 102 million using social media through mobile.

In SA alone, there are 28.84 million active internet users and 85.53 million people accessing the internet from their cellphones. In terms of year on year African growth, the study found that between January 2015 and January last year, there was a 14% growth in the number of active internet users.

This growth is in line with the local government’s goal to connect all citizens to broadband services by 2020, as laid out in the National Development Plan, which also prioritises a seamless network of networks that by 2030 will make broadband universally accessible at a cost and quality that meets the needs of citizens.

Big changes require brave and decisive responses. Organisations keen to attract and retain the best talent in this new environment need to be well informed, properly advised and equip themselves to answer the demands of this changing workforce.

Mark McCallum

Mark McCallum is chief technology officer (CTO) at Orange Business Services