HR Leader logo
Stay connected.   Subscribe  to our newsletter

IT struggles to keep up with demands of younger workforce

By Nick Wilson | |5 minute read

The workforce is getting younger, and businesses are under increasing pressure to cater to changing IT expectations.

According to Riverbed’s recent Global Digital Employee Experience Survey, 37 per cent of IT and business leaders said Millennials expected the most out of workplace technology. A further 28 per cent pointed to Gen Z.

This matters for three reasons. Firstly, “digital natives” are set to dominate the Australian workforce. According to PWC, Millennials are set to make up 75 per cent of the workforce by 2025.


Secondly, Australian IT departments are understaffed and underskilled. According to the Riverbed survey, around 42 per cent of Australian enterprises report current personnel shortages in their IT departments, while 39 per cent believe they have adequate staff numbers but lack the necessary skill set.

Thirdly, negative workplace technology experiences have tangible effects on employee retention and business performance. Forty-one per cent of IT and business leaders foresee disruptions, with a further 26 per cent predicting potential reputation-damaging consequences.

Overwhelmingly, 91 per cent of leaders see a comprehensive understanding of the digital employee experience (DEX) as important to retaining talent.

“The rising influence of digital natives, the shift in how and where people work, and IT complexity put tremendous pressure on IT and business leaders to deliver great digital experience,” said Dave Donatelli, chief executive at Riverbed. 

“With two-thirds of leaders believing younger employees will consider leaving a company that doesn’t meet their digital needs, the [chief information officer] is essentially becoming a chief talent officer too.”

That said, Australian businesses are making efforts to modernise their workplaces. Almost nine in 10 (89 per cent) of those who complained of underskilled IT employees plan on training within the next 18 months

The nature of IT is developing in response to the changing expectations of younger employees. According to Riverbed, 94 per cent of respondents said IT was more responsible for business innovation now as compared with three years ago.

Thirty-two per cent of IT professionals and leaders consider the biggest benefit of having an IT representative at the C-suite level is to save time and money.

Perhaps more important than changing the nature of IT roles is adapting to changes in technology.

“What’s encouraging is that most business and IT leaders understand the challenge at hand and are taking proactive steps to invest in technologies such as AI and unified observability to help deliver an improved digital employee experience,” said Mr Donatelli.

HR Leader recently discussed the legal complications surrounding monitoring hybrid workers.

A recent analysis found well over 500 related technology “bossware” products are now available on the market, targeted at monitoring remote workers. Furthermore, the global employee computer monitoring software market is expected to grow by $US488 million to $US1.7 billion by 2029.

“Workplace surveillance should be done carefully and for the right reasons,” explained Peter Leonard, a professor of practice for the schools of management and governance and information systems and technology management at UNSW Business School.

“Transparency on both the employer and employee sides is one of the most important elements to consider. Hybrid workers should start by thinking about how they use resources and equipment provided by their employer.”



The term "workforce" or "labour force" refers to the group of people who are either employed or unemployed.

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson

Nick Wilson is a journalist with HR Leader. With a background in environmental law and communications consultancy, Nick has a passion for language and fact-driven storytelling.