1. Provide Anytime/Anywhere Access.
Almost every expert InformationWeek consulted noted that the Number One thing IT needs to focus on in order to attract and retain millennials is an anytime/anyplace computing environment. "Enable corporate tools that promote an employee base that do not have work barriers in terms of hours worked or locale," said Paul Liu, CIO of IT services company Freeborders. "Gen Y'ers prefer to be able to work anywhere, anytime."
2. Support BYOD Programs.
For most millennials, smart mobile devices aren't just communications tools -- they're also fashion statements and status symbols, carefully chosen and omnipresent. A company that dictates specific mobile device choice will be less appealing to these younger workers, so IT should work to implement bring-your-own-device programs that emphasize choice to employees while providing security for company systems and data.
"Device flexibility is key," said Phil Alberta, CIO for IT services firm IPM. "Gen Y likes to work on the same device they personally purchased as a consumer versus the device that corporate has preauthorized. They are familiar with how it works, enjoy using it, and see it as an extension of themselves versus just another business tool. Companies that embrace this concept have the opportunity to streamline costs, boost staff engagement on the go, and project an appealing, cutting-edge business image over other business suitors."
3. Support BYOA Programs -- Heck, Support BYO Everything.
The BYOD model was the game changer, but young people in the workplace also want to bring (or maybe even build) their own mobile apps, their own wireless networks, their own private clouds … you get the idea.
[ Nobody knows more about BYOD than the higher education industry. Read 10 BYOD Lessons For Business From Higher Ed. ]
4. Be Social.
Millennials are almost as attached to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter as they are to their smartphones (and of course, mobile devices enable social usage). They see the value of social not just for personal use, but for corporate branding, customer service and internal collaboration. Instead of clamping down on social networks, IT must find a way to enable their safe and effective use in the workplace.
5. Enable Open, Dynamic Collaboration Spaces.
Email alone just won't cut it for millennials when it comes to internal communications and collaboration. They are accustomed to open channels that afford free and easy interconnection. There are a variety of technologies that can be harnessed to provide this kind of virtual workspace, from Skype to business-oriented social networks.
6. Rethink Security.
You would think that a more open computing culture would require stronger security, and that's true to some extent. But it really requires different thinking about security. "From a security standpoint, re-evaluate/redefine what information is core to your company and devise more modern methods to secure that," said Freeborders' Liu. It will be more challenging than ever to balance productivity and security, but it's a challenge IT must undertake in order to create a more modern computing environment.
7. Play the Game.
Younger workers have not only grown up playing video games, they've also seen gaming technology integrated into educational software since they were learning their ABCs. Many enterprise applications that have built-in social capabilities also offer gamification capabilities. IT should work alongside the business to determine where gamification makes sense and how to best implement and train users on it.
8. Form a Tight Partnership with the Business.
Speaking of working alongside the business, it should happen on an ongoing basis, not just now and then. Millennials expect technology to be woven into every business process, and that can happen effectively only when IT and business managers are in step with each other.
9. Provide Training and Set Reasonable Guidelines.
While opening up the corporate computing environment and focusing on the latest tools will almost certainly be a selling point for young talent, all of this has to be balanced with the best interests of the company in general. This means maintaining appropriate levels of privacy and security, and it means training all end users in what's acceptable and what's not -- no matter what technology is being used or who's using it. For example, younger users who are accustomed to publically marking their every move on social media may need to be reminded that all-access when it comes to the business isn't at all appropriate.
10. Keep an Open Mind.
Above all, it's important for the IT department to be open to new ideas about technology and how technology can drive the business.
Follow Deb Donston-Miller on Twitter at @debdonston.