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Christina Ramlet Christensen, Thought Leadership Program Manager, SAP

During the much-buzzed-about SAPPHIRE NOW keynote, three fresh-faced and awe-inspiring millennials took the stage to kick off the event. Now, if I stood up in front of 25,000 executives, peers, customers, and prospects from around the world when I was 18 years old, let’s just say my puke-to-excitement ratio would break the barometer. I was blown away by their confident eloquence and self-assurance.

I then asked myself: In the age of social media and cloud computing, is there a new instinct to put your best foot forward and mask the error in self-reporting?

Ready for primetime

On the show floor, a few primetime millennials (as opposed to vintage millennials like me, born on the cusp of Gen X and Gen Y) walked around with their Google Glass, relying on the world’s data not just at their fingertips but as a new-formed appendage. I imagine their bravado could be a result of this reliance on an infinite, and instantaneous, source of data. I liken it to the swagger I feel when driving with my navigation system on.

Plenty of studies show that the persona most of us project through social sites is grossly inflated. Not only that, but this behavior has also extended to our work selves. Frankly, what would surprise me more would be millennials who are humble and not outrageously competitive.

On a SAPPHIRE NOW panel hosted by Jacob Morgan, author and principle of Chess Media Group, called “Get Ready to Engage Millennials,” young panelist Amira Polack, SAP, said, “Not only is it a race to see who has the best idea, but who is the one that takes the quickest action around a project? Who can post it first to the Jam site, not just for your managers and peers but for the organization and community to see, and then receive real-time quantitative feedback in the forms of likes, shares, comments?” Polack

added that she sometimes needs to put her phone on airplane mode to give her mind (and ego) a break from the push notifications.

To keep up with this response, many millennials integrate all applications and inboxes onto one device. Polack boldly said that she, along with many of her peers, would break company policy to work from their own device (supporting the BYOD movement).

It’s not all for show

At the SAPPHIRE NOW Future of Work, Networked Economy, and Cloud 2020 forums, I kept hearing two overarching themes around the contingent worker and the rise of the millennials. It didn’t take long for me to realize that Gen Y’s confidence and ability to stay connected makes them perfect candidates for the flexible workforce.

As Mike Ettling, global head of cloud and on-premise HR for SAP, prophesized during his “Find the Future in the Clouds” presentation, the contingent labor force will grow faster than the regular labor force. How will we drive this lower, and do we necessarily need to? We can enable this contingent labor pool, and integrate the contingent and

permanent workforce into a wide view.

Millennials have only known a workspace with personal computers; they have a desire to make work a fun environment; they understand how to stay connected to a project whether inside a cubicle or in a forest; they truly get social collaboration; they thrive on variety; and take charge of their career development. Most important, they know how to be heard, regardless of their proximity to the inside of four office walls.

To learn more about millennials and the contingent workforce, check out the full session replays from the SAPPHIRE NOW 2014 Forums.