It’s a common occurrence. You’re at an event or in a meeting, and you suddenly find yourself future gazing about how the world of communications will look 20 years from now. There’ll be someone talking in your ear about their kids to emphasise the difference between generations, from a digital standpoint. The stereotypical millennials these days no longer emails, or even uses Facebook. For them, it’s all about Snapchat. Or is that even the case anymore?
As with any stereotype, there is, of course, some truth in there somewhere: a starting point. That’s important because this generational digital divide is at the very heart of the dilemma facing enterprises all over the world as they confront the needs of tomorrow’s employees and users. Understanding the latest mindsets and habits of young people is a constant fascination for those who seek to facilitate them. But is it the ‘be all and end all’ for the modern enterprise?
Old dogs and new tricks
“You can’t teach an old dog, new tricks…” Perhaps not – but there is growing evidence that veteran employees manage to teach themselves.
According to research carried out by VMWare, older generations are actively pursuing more technical digital skills in the workplace. For example, of the 500 workers (in companies with 100+ employees) surveyed, 39% of 45-54-year-olds are even seeking advice or training toward designing and building mobile applications. And 73% of all respondents said digital skills enable greater collaboration between colleagues.
Vendors often portray millennials as a group of young guns infiltrating the workplace and bringing with them a list of demands. Their manifesto – so the story goes – is to use the tools of their choice, to work how they want, when they want – or face the consequences! Organisations are understandably concerned that, should they fail to oblige, they will face a barrage of discontent, a lack of ability to retain the best talent and the dangers of shadow IT. But as the stats above suggest, it’s not just ‘millennials’ that are driving workplace transformation.
What does being a millennial even mean?
It’s important to remember that the millennial generation includes everybody born from the early 80s onwards. Many of them had childhoods without smartphones and tablets and will already have been working for over 15 years by now. That’s plenty of time to become entrenched in a non-digital work routine and even refute ‘newfangled’ ways of working…
But, it’s safe to say, most workers today expect to be equipped with the best tools available to do their job. That means communications and technology that empowers them to make smarter, faster decisions and create more meaningful interactions with one another and their customers.
The majority of organisations want a more modern work environment, which can adapt to employee preference. Even amongst those businesses that haven’t yet made a conscious decision to embark on a ‘journey towards digital transformation’, many have in fact been rolling out digital features over time, starting with simple things like paperless billing or web payments, and then adding increasingly complex processes.
Advancements in Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) technology over the past decade has allowed workers to collaborate across different interfaces and platforms. As organisations undergo their digital transformations, in whatever form that may take, it’s an opportunity for businesses to introduce a UCC strategy that ties everything and everyone together and allows for a more communicative, productive workforce.
Collaboration for all
Employers need to create opportunities for more transparency and communication, as well as an employee community for enhanced collaboration, so work becomes more meaningful and interactive for everyone.
Considering the user’s personal preference is key, and working to facilitate this – whether that be private messaging, screen sharing, video calling and conferencing, or all of the above. Neatly package it together and make it available to geographically-dispersed internal and external teams alike. Assuming, correctly, that all employees are willing to give UCC a chance, it’s on us vendors to create a user experience that resonates with all age groups in the workforce.
The term ‘millennial’ is, after all, inherently flawed. No-one in their right mind expects the behaviour of an 18-year-old to be the same as a thirty-something. One thing that is abundantly clear, however, is the consumerization of the workforce, where technology affects a user’s personal life to the point that they want and expect similar experiences in their professional life. The likelihood is that this will continue to drive the internal digital strategies of organisations the world over. Any business unwilling to accept and accommodate it risks being left behind
By Todd Carothers, Executive Vice President at CounterPath