Increasingly selective Millennial and Gen Z tech workers won’t tolerate inefficient tools and expect more than gimmicks to join a company, according to a new survey that found CIOs are becoming ‘chief talent officers’ forced to improve workers’ workplace experiences.

Fully 68 per cent of the 1,800 business and IT decision makers participating in Riverbed’s Global Digital Employee Experience survey believe Millennials and Gen Z employees would consider leaving the company if they are expected to use inefficient development tools, productivity applications, customer support, or other business systems.

With 87 per cent admitting their organisation’s growth and performance were directly impacted by slow-running systems and applications, and outdated technology, this reality raises the very real risk that younger interviewees – whose status as ‘digital natives’ means they expect responsive and effective digital tools – would walk away from a potential job if it meant they would have to spend their days dealing with inefficient and antiquated systems.

Such systems are rife, particularly in large businesses with large numbers of operational lines and overlapping technology systems – such as one contact centre operator, Riverbed Asia Pacific and Japan vice president Chris Parker told Information Age, whose more than a dozen clumsily integrated systems forced customer support staff to wait for nearly a minute before they could retrieve customer account details.

Delays not only frustrate clients and workers, but represent the company brand poorly – and, emboldened by the knowledge that their skills are in high demand, reports suggest that today’s job candidates are actively avoiding the possibility of having to deal with poor digital experiences.

In speaking with his own clients, Parker said, many organisations “are literally dealing with candidates who are interviewing them a lot more aggressively than what they have in the past around what systems they’re using, and what their experience would be.”

That experience is consistent with the findings of another recent survey, by EY, that found employees have gained 8 per cent in “perceived power” since 2019 – with employers having highly-rated workplaces “more likely to report better productivity, culture, and a decreased likelihood of employees wanting to quit.”

While 25 per cent of respondents said employees could be engaged with the workplace through perks like weekly office happy hours – and 14 per cent nominated free coffee and snacks – these incentives paled in comparison to the 49 per cent who believe providing a seamless digital employee experience (DEX) would keep employees engaged.

Poorly-rated workplaces risk not only losing staff but being excoriated on review sites like GlassDoor – with 26 per cent of respondents flagging the “potential reputation-damaging consequences” of burdensome IT.

IT superstar trek: the next generation

With 2.3 million Gen Z Australians aged 15 to 24 who are already working and an additional 1 million yet to join, the dynamics of the country’s workforce are continuing to change rapidly – and employers must adapt their workplaces accordingly.

Changes are already underway: Gartner, for one, recently noted that disruption in established workplace hierarchies had changed managerial responsibilities; increased reliance on employee data collection; paved the way for AI-driven automation to support employees; introduced new cultural and relationship challenges due to changes in remote work-life balance; and driven employees to work for purpose and passion.

Even as organisations come to favour upskilling and “digital dexterity” over tenure and experience, Gartner advises, “extreme digital dexterity will ultimately be the modus operandi for how employees work.”

“Increasing demand for a more automated workplace has sparked the killer combo of people and technology,” the firm says, advising that “proactive leaders must investigate how the regular use of AI, smart software and robots will invigorate work strategy.”

The prospect of losing critical employees because of outdated technology did not sit well with respondents to the Riverbed survey – 63 per cent of whom said failing to meet younger workers’ expectations would be disruptive and impact productivity, reputation, and performance.