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New year, new workplace trends: How employee habits will shape UC tools in 2016

From office design and telecommuting to BYOD policies, employees defied traditional ways of working in 2015 – an influence that will continue to drive adoption of enterprise technology like unified communications (UC) this year. But as workforce dynamics rapidly evolve, there’s a new expectation for employees to be accessible anytime, anywhere.

This shifting mentality is driving organisations to implement policies and UC tools that enable employees to work in a more productive manner. Two-thirds of employee productivity happens outside of the office, according to Emergent Research – a level of efficiency that stems from employers who provide technology that appeals to their staff’s work habits. If companies fail to adapt, they’re failing to combat the war on talent and attract top candidates. In order to create collaboration strategies that match employees’ on-the-go lifestyle, monitoring and acting on the following employee trends will be crucial in 2016.

Trends propelling tech in 2016

  1. Employees won’t want flexibility, they’ll demand it. The stigma around telecommuting has nearly diminished at most organisations. Spearheaded by the Millennial lifestyle, this shift will lead to more companies adopting broader telecommuting and paid leave policies in 2016. While most organisations accept remote workers, businesses still value in-person interactions with their people. As a result, HR managers will lead the workspace design overhaul to foster Millennials’ sense of collaboration.
  2. Millennials will cause positive disruption. While it’s true that this generation has drastically different work habits from Baby Boomers, their habits are far from a negative influence on the workplace. Instead, Millennials and their digitally-inclined behaviours are giving companies a much needed push to upgrade legacy systems. Forrester Research shows that 50 per cent of companies’ IT spend is used to maintain legacy operations and equipment rather than investing in new and innovative technology – a finding that proves companies must improve their understanding of Millennial tech habits in 2016.
  3. Team communication will evolve. No longer interested in single channels of communication and asynchronous communication like email and voicemail, workplaces are migrating to tools that encourage real-time interactions – a trend that will further escalate in 2016. As collaboration matures, employees will crave better technology to support their goals and enable constant communication – wherever it may be from.
  4. Job seekers will commit to companies that offer top tech tools. Employees, especially Millennials, expect technology that enables them to do their jobs better and more efficiently. As businesses engage in the war on talent in 2016, they’ll need to demonstrate their use of impressive technology for recruiting purposes. By implementing collaborative, BYOD-focused policies and procedures, companies can establish an environment that motivates their employees to collaborate with each other. Instead of simply launching UC to cut costs, organisations will focus more on how these tools give them curb appeal in the job market.

Mirror trends to create UC strategy

Armed with an understanding of how their employees work, businesses should create UC plans capable of meeting both employee and company expectations. Today’s workforce is fast and always moving, meaning companies need to provide technology that meets their expectations. Despite your budget or IT requirements, embracing some best practices will help you achieve company goals while facilitating employee happiness.

Define clear goals for UC deployment success – Any IT project requires defining objectives before launch. Whether it’s to win employee loyalty or simply to cut costs, establishing an agenda will give your UC program the momentum it needs from start through to implementation.

Give employees options – Organisations make the mistake of rolling out the same UC tools to every employee. And while a rapid deployment may seem like the best route, this type of workplace technology requires more personalised assignment. For example, one team may have a strong need for video conferencing technology while another never participates in video calls. Providing a variety of options and surveying employees is a great way to gauge which tools are actually on their wish lists.

Implement recurring training sessions - Providing training not only ramps up employee enthusiasm and adoption of UC, but also increases your chances of generating ROI. Organisations may want to consider on-the-job or phased training – methods that increase employee receptiveness to using tools like video conferencing, instant messaging and VoIP. This can also give you a sense of their experience with the technology before full deployment.

Employee insight will never overrule the CIO’s role, but they are certainly an important part of the workplace communication puzzle that can’t be ignored. End-user adoption will soar if you’re able to take employee goals and apply them to the UC selection process. And the increased usage coupled with a decrease in employee churn will drive more productivity from your workforce. Generating long-term benefits for UC requires showing workers how the technology can heighten their careers – a task that starts with realising the influence employees have on the evolution of UC technologies and their adoption rates.

Rob Bellmar, Executive Vice President at West Unified Communications Services

Image Credit: Shutterstock/Brian A Jackson