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January 21, 2014

Aruba Study Asks 'Are You Ready for #GenMobile?'

As somebody who happily works with young people who are early in their careers, I am constantly amazed by their digital dexterity and the way in which they consume information. Without making a value judgment on best practices, I will admit that they are much more proficient with social media than I am. Plus, the ways in which they stay hyper-informed in general are not just fascinating but also exemplify workplace trends all organizations are going to have to adapt to as what has been named #GenMobile starts to become a larger part of the workforce.     

The reason for such interest in the subject of #GenMobile is a new report from Sunnyvale, CA-based Aruba Networks, a provider of next-generation network access solutions designed to help accelerate the transformation of traditional companies into mobile enterprises. Entitled, “Are You Ready for #GenMoible?” (with the sub-head, “How a new group is changing the way we work, live and communicate”), the study looks at over 5,000 interviews done in November of 2013 by research firm Shape the Future.

What emerged is extremely insightful, not just because of the high-level responses but also because of the differences between respondents from the targeted countries of the USA, UK, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, South Africa, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

#GenMobile is emerging as a breed apart. What this means is attention must be paid and organizations are going to need to adapt, hence the “Are you Ready?” title.

#GenMobile likes and dislikes

As the authors note, “The aim of the research was simple: to expose how enterprise workers use their mobile devices in and out of the workplace and the importance of mobile devices to their lifestyles.” So what is the profile of #GenMobiles and what is on their minds?

Let’s start at a high level, #GenMobile employees are defined by their preference for mobility both in terms of the devices they use and their approach to work. They are characterized by:

  • A tendency for non-traditional work hours
  • Demand flexible work locations over higher salaries
  • Request reliable internet and seek it in better Wi-Fi versus 4G, 3G or wired connections

Their major characteristic is that they are mobile-centric, starting with the fact that they have lots of personal mobile devices and are trending toward having more.

Source:  Aruba Networks, Are You Ready for #GenMoible?

Not only are their devices “attached,” so are they to their devices. They are 15 times more likely to give up coffee and seven times more likely to say goodbye to their televisions than their beloved smartphones. What they are increasingly unattached to is the typical physical workplace, with 57 percent saying they feel most productive when working from home. In addition, they expect their employers to make the policy and structural changes necessary to enable their preferred form of working (i.e., from anywhere at any time with access to the tools and user experience they would get at a desktop in a corporate office).

As the graphic below, depicting the amount hours they are mobile during a week, shows, they are also very mobile.

Source:  Aruba Networks, Are You Ready for #GenMoible?

It is certainly food for thought as the workplace becomes virtualized in general, the enterprise becomes mobile and the boundaries between work and personal, as embodied by the multi-tasking nature of smartphones and tablets, blurs traditional boundaries on a host of fronts.

Global trends

  • Wi-Fi matters: Nearly 58 percent prefer Wi-Fi at the expense of other connections (4G, 3G or wired), while 51 percent declare that their mobile devices help them to manage their lives.
  • Money isn’t everything: 53 percent would prefer to work from home two to three days a week than receive a 10 percent higher salary and nearly a third (32 percent) would rather have their employer pay for the smartphone of their choice than a 5 percent higher salary.
  •  A new workday is emerging: Over four in ten (45 percent) believe they work most efficiently before 9am or after 6pm.
  • All things connected: It’s no surprise that almost half (45 percent) want their cars connected, but it is interesting to see that a fifth (20 percent) want their clothes or shoes to be connected in the next five years.
  • Tech at work is essential: 38 percent would rather be able to bring their own device to work than have an office with a window, and 53 percent would rather their company paid for their choice of device than provided them with lunch.
  •  Mobile at every pause:  The average consumer spends 21 hours per week on their mobile devices doing errands like banking, or viewing movies for entertainment, and 37 percent expect their number of remote work hours to increase in the next twelve months.

But wait, there is more!

The typical #GenMobile abides by the “anywhere, anytime” principles of flexible working, where office hours are no longer constrained to the traditional workday.

Aruba Networks believes that understanding and catering to #GenMobile’s needs can be the key to a productive workforce, while also ensuring global companies are in a competitive position. For example, #GenMobile are:

  • More likely than other groups to access mobile apps such as Facebook (17 percent) and Twitter (14 percent).
  • They are also 20 percent more likely to access and respond to work emails on their mobile device.

It is not all work and no play.  In fact, 63 percent of respondents said they still value the time when they can disconnect. The authors feel this is a warning to employers that downtime is important.

“We’ve seen flexible working, BYOD and always-on connectivity growing for some time, but this report shows that it’s now become a way of life for those in the modern workforce,” said Ben Gibson, chief marketing officer at Aruba Networks. “What this report suggests is that #GenMobile won’t have patience with companies who do not accommodate their mobile lives. In order to attract and keep the best employees, businesses need to start looking for solutions to ensure levels of empowerment and productivity in this emerging working world. Ultimately, many will have to totally redefine traditional work environments.”

It is not just employers who should be interested in the survey. There is a technology component to the report that service providers had best take heed of and act.  #GenMobile is not just mobile device-centric, they rely on Wi-Fi for convenience and to keep a lid on their data costs:

  • 70 percent of the typical #GenMobile demands Wi-Fi or mobile broadband connectivity (12 percent more than average)
  • Service provider cellular services such as 3G and 4G are only preferred by 7 percent and 5 percent of respondents respectively.

“Making the necessary workplace changes needs to be supplemented with solid technology choices; employers will only succeed in motivating #GenMobile workers if they have the security and connections available to facilitate this shift,” added Gibson.

Along with the above trends, it should be noted that the survey also provides some granularity on the differences between #GenMobile types in various parts of the world. That is worth a read depending on where you operate.  Just as a teaser, one pullout is that in the US, 79 percent of respondents said they feel most efficient when working at home. This is of interest given Yahoo’s CEO Marissa Mayer’s desire to get most of her folks back to the office based on productivity concerns. In the heavily #GenMobile Silicon Valley, how one deals with this issue is going to be important given the competition for talent.

So, ready or not, here they come. Now might be a great time to answer that “are you ready” question.

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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