Millennials will make up half the federal workforce come 2020, replacing retiring baby boomers who have long filled federal ranks.
It is no secret that millennials rely on mobile devices more than previous generations, but there is also a difference in how they use them.
As agencies prepare for the influx of millennials, they must also prepare the mobile infrastructure for their arrival. That includes bolstering networks for a bump in mobile traffic, instituting effective bring-your-own-device strategies and deploying mobile device management tools.
Shoring up network vulnerabilities is critical as millennials are five times more likely to compromise IT security than baby boomers, according to a study from Absolute Software. Millennials are also four times more likely to modify a device’s default settings, twice as likely to use a device for personal use and five times more likely to access content deemed not safe for work.
The Flip Side
But the arrival of millennials in large numbers, of course, comes with great benefits as well. Millennials bring youth and energy into government along with a fresh perspective about how government can serve citizens, now and in the future.
Millennials also use mobile devices to be more productive, taking their work with them when they’re traveling, in meetings or away from their desks, ensuring that they are always connected to the workplace.
Supporting this highly mobile work-life approach will be a necessity if government wants to compete with the private sector for talent. Millennials expect the same technology in the workplace that they use every day. Without that, government risks losing out on top job candidates.
But the government shouldn’t just bend to the will of this ever-growing part of its workforce. It must educate millennial employees about the risks they take and train them to adopt appropriate security best practices.
In the Absolute study, 50 percent of millennials said security was not their responsibility, and 36 percent said the IT department was responsible for keeping devices secure.
As all CIOs and security chiefs know: People, not technology, are the weakest link in the security chain. IT can take every reasonable step to protect devices, but when employees make careless decisions, they put the agency at risk.
As mobile technology use within government grows, agencies need to train employees on security best practices and maintain updated IT security policies so employees understand and follow each agency’s protocol when it comes to losing a device or sensitive government data.
From a technology standpoint, agencies need a security solution that will provide clear visibility into all devices, on or off the network, allowing their IT staff to identify vulnerabilities and traffic bottlenecks.
Endpoint security — including data encryption, anti-malware protection and the ability to remotely lock down and wipe devices if needed — is another consideration.
The reality is that although 79 percent of millennials say they prefer separate devices for work and personal use, more than half use their work devices for personal use.
Although there will be growing pains, there will also be growth. With that in mind, IT teams need to take the lead in creating a technology ecosystem that embraces millennials without putting the mission at risk.