By Melissa J. Anderson

According to Cisco’s second annual Connected World Technology Report, a third of millennails consider the internet to be just as importance as water, food, air, and shelter. And they’re not outliers – almost half of considered the internet to be “close” in importance.

Research – like the Pew report “The Millennails: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.” released last year – has shown this group to be more connected than anyone else. But Cisco’s report illustrates the vital importance that technology holds in the lives of Gen Y.

In fact, the study revealed, “More than half of Students (55%) and an even larger proportion of [Young Professionals] (62%) indicate they could not live without the Internet, it is an integral part of their daily life.”

And, Cisco says, companies that are looking to recruit and retain employees within this age range should take note. Marie Hattar, Vice President, Enterprise Marketing explained, “The results of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report should make businesses re-examine how they need to evolve in order to attract talent and shape their business models.”

She continued, “Without a doubt, our world is changing to be much more Internet-focused, and becomes even more so with each new generation. CIOs need to plan and scale their networks now to address the security and mobility demands that the next generation workforce will put on their infrastructure, and they need to do this in conjunction with a proper assessment of corporate policies.”

Blending of Personal and Professional Spheres

One of the biggest findings of the study was that Gen Y workers are blending their personal and professional personas. According to the study, seven out of ten respondents who used Facebook had “friended” a boss or coworker. The ratio was the same for respondents using twitter. In fact, about a third of respondents said they felt they had been hired specifically because of their social networking savvy.

Cisco’s Chief Futurist, Dave Evans explained, “The lifestyles of ‘prosumers’ – the blending of professionals and consumers in the workplace — their technology expectations, and their behavior toward information access is changing the nature of communications on a global basis.

The company’s VP of Communication and Collaboration Sheila Jordan agreed [PDF]. She said, “These findings among college students and young employees indicate the freedom to access social media and use devices is increasingly important to the next generation of the world’s workforce – in some cases, more important than salary. The results in the Cisco Connected World Technology Report demonstrate how companies need to acknowledge this fact in greater numbers, and respond accordingly – for many industries, the status quo of previous work environments is becoming a thing of the past.”

As Jordan mentioned, many of the survey respondents said that access to social media and flexibility would influence their decision to accept a job – even if it meant getting paid less. Cisco says, “More than two of five would accept a lower-paying job that had more flexibility with regard to device choice, social media access, and mobility than a higher-paying job with less flexibility.”

In fact, the study said, “About 4 in 10 (41%) End Users recall that their company used a flexible device policy to attract new employees at the time they were hired.”

Sujai Hajela, VP and General Manager, Wireless Networking Business Unit at Cisco explained, “In addition to the impact on business communications, the study provides proof that the next generation of employees and their technology demands will influence job decisions, hiring and a new age of work-life balance. How businesses address these demands will inevitably affect their competitive advantage and HR success. It is not just a technology trend anymore – it’s a business trend.”

Mobile Freedom

The study also revealed that millenials are divided on the value of workplace flexibility, with 54% of College Students reporting that they’d prefer a traditional schedule, and 53% of Young Professionals reporting that they’d like a more flexible working arrangement.

According to the research, most felt that their work could be performed anywhere – that most of the time, being in the office wasn’t critical to their productivity, except for special meetings. Yet ,the report continues, “In contrast to these perceptions, most [Young Professionals] indicate that their boss feels it is necessary for them to be physically present in the office to work efficiently because nothing replaces daily in-person interaction.”

Nevertheless, most Young Professionals also said they felt remote access was important – with four in ten calling it “critical.” Cisco highlighted that this belief was particularly strong in Mexico, Brazil, and Spain. Yet only a quarter said they have the ability to access their corporate network anytime, anywhere.

The acceptance of workplace flexibility is growing, but considering the expectations of millennial workers, it’s not growing fast enough. Companies intending to recruit the best of the best of this group in the coming years should think seriously about expanding their own mobility standards.