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This past May, I had the privilege of attending the 2015 DOCUMENT Strategy Forum. As always, the event provided excellent insight on the future of documents and communications. However, as I sat in on many sessions, there seemed to be one topic on the minds of many attendees—millennials. What types of documents do millennials commonly interact with in the office? How should our company engage our millennial workforce? Do they even like print?

As my generation continues into adulthood, businesses and technology suppliers will continue to ask these questions about a group they are still figuring out. In 2014, IDC surveyed 510 end users on their document behaviors. The end users were split into two groups: those aged 18 to 35 and those 36 and up. The results show that, like many generations before, we, as businesses, cannot assume that we understand the behaviors of one group or that the group is homogeneous.

One of the biggest assumptions about millennials is that they either dismiss or do not regard print in document workflows. To be fair, with the amount of time I spend on my phone, I understand where this belief comes from. However, when IDC asked respondents how much they print documents in the office and at home, the results were surprising. For both millennial and 36-plus age groups, 65% of respondents print very frequently—every day or three to four times a week—in their office environments.

Moreover, when millennials do print, they are two times more likely to print jobs that run from six to 15 pages in length, compared to 36-plus respondents who print three to five pages. At home, millennials are also more likely than older generations to print at higher frequency rates. Given the frequency in which millennials are interacting with the printed page, to make a blanket statement that they would dismiss print is incorrect.

It is important to keep these habits in mind when looking at how to improve workflows in the office. Many millennials are printing because of business growth and the need to back up critical information. If an organization is looking to minimize the amount of printed output in regard to millennials, providing secure backup options digitally that are accessible across multiple devices and implementing a form of output management for printed materials could help lower the amount of print output.

Millennials are extremely mobile-centric; however, IDC's research shows that statement is truer for smartphone/tablet use for personal purposes rather than business.

Millennials spend, on average, 25% of their time on smartphones and 31% of their time on tablets completing business-related tasks. In contrast, on average, 75% of smartphone time and 70% of tablet time is spent on personal use. This usage trend is also true for the 36-plus respondents, with the exception of five percent more time spent on business tasks for smartphones when compared to millennials.

While the cynic may assume that the majority of mobile users across any generation are playing Words with Friends over working, it is more likely a case of limited mobile business enablement. IDC research shows that for the majority of mobile users, their workplaces are just not enabling the applications they require on the devices they are using. Enabling mobility in the workforce allows for improved efficiency and workplace productivity. This is true across the generations of mobile users found within organizations. Businesses with a largely millennial workforce already come to the table with mobile natives, and they could serve as a critical resource when it comes to driving mobile efficiencies.

Another way in which millennials work differently than from their 36-plus counterparts is in their adoption of cloud services. When asked if they use cloud services, such as Dropbox or Box, over 50% of millennial respondents said that they used such tools, but almost 60% of 36-plus respondents said that they did not. Because of their high adoption, millennial respondents were also more likely to engage in document workflows using cloud services.

Businesses need to address cloud services deployment as a means of providing all workers with the ability to engage in more workflows that are dynamic. As time goes on, cloud services continue to be a critical part of business workflows, especially as the need for collaboration, anytime/anywhere accessibility to content and the need to travel across various devices increases.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the millennial generation is one of the largest generations in the US, with the largest single-year age being 25. This means that not only are millennials here to stay, but they are in the workforce for the long haul. Additionally, millennials are one of the most diverse generations. Our backgrounds have been shaped by technology and world events in extreme ways, and we are ready to bring our diversity to the workforce. However, the question remains: Is the working world ready for us?

Arianna Valentini is a senior research analyst on IDC's Document Solutions research team. Follow her on Twitter @LilVPrinterMC.

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