In the age of texting, video calls and collaboration apps, the humble office phone is struggling to maintain its position in the modern workplace.
For the new ‘app generation’, many of today’s workplace technologies seem positively archaic. These young people have never experienced a world without the internet and hold a completely different attitude towards communications and collaboration technology.
So-called ‘digital natives’, they have grown up with an always-on mentality, constantly switching between connected devices, instant web services and mobile applications.
According to a new research project from Fuze, which brought app gen teens into the workplace, 84% of upcoming app generation workers communicate via mobile messaging apps, while 57% regularly communicate via video calls at work. Furthermore, 85% of UK teenagers expect to use the very latest technology at work.
As this tech-savvy generation moves into the workplace, IT departments must consider whether their current communications approach is capable of meeting these new demands. For many, the answer is simple: they’re not even close.
Almost half (46%) of current workers believe their organisations do not provide adequate technology for effective day-to-day working. At the heart of this issue lie squeezed IT budgets and a continued commitment to supporting outdated communications tech.
For the app generation, devices such as office phones and fax machines are not only unnecessary, they are bewilderingly inefficient.
Of the 2,500 teenagers surveyed by Fuze, less than 2% said they use landline phones, while the majority considered desk phones to be ‘less essential’ than pens, paper and even staplers in the modern workplace.
Despite this, the vast majority of businesses still consider office phones to be a core part of their communications approach. Clearly there is a significant disconnect between businesses and the new generation of employee expectations, but is it a gap that can be overcome?
Bridging the gap
While the idea of ditching their desk phones would be welcomed by most employees, the reality is far more complicated. Having invested significant budget in existing communications systems, the idea of a total overhaul can seem daunting.
Sticking to the middleground seems a much safer option, building upon existing technologies without a complete infrastructure overall.
By providing all available options – desk phones, desktop computers, mobiles, online collaboration tools and apps – businesses can address the demands of the new app generation while still providing existing employees with a system they already know.
But is this really the most effective approach, or just an ‘easy’ one-size-fits-all option?
For most businesses, introducing new communication technologies such as VoIP and video calls is rarely enough. Piling new technology on top of old simply results in additional IT management, poorer user experiences and, ultimately, a disjointed communications approach.
Increasing the quantity of tools available without having a strategy to unify them means businesses will never develop the coherent communications approach demanded by the app generation.
Rather than focusing on specific technologies, IT departments need to develop a truly unified roadmap to business communication. Not only will this help them prepare for the app generation, it will also offer an opportunity to secure the very best tools for a productive workforce.
Ignoring the new generation will simply stall their entry into the workplace until you are ready for them. Over the next five years, hundreds of thousands of young workers will join the business community, bringing with them high expectations around work-life balance, flexible hours and the very latest in communications tech.
IT departments have a long way to go if they are to meet these expectations. Even so, such changes should be greeted as an opportunity rather than a threat, with those businesses that are willing to adapt and learn from the new generation jumping ahead of the competition.
Sourced from Luca Lazzaron, senior VP of international operations, Fuze