Depending on where you are in the world, millennials either dominate, or are about to dominate the workplace. They are bookended by the Gen Xers, who now command most of the top leadership positions, with Gen Zers occupying entry-level and junior roles. This collective group is becoming known, unsurprisingly, as the XYZ workforce.
XYZers' experiences and expectations have been shaped in varying degrees by consumer apps and software. Gen Xers, though the oldest group, are arguably the most technically agile. Many have navigated sweeping changes in business software - from the early days of MS Office 1.0 and Lotus 1-2-3 through to today’s modern, consumerized business apps like Slack and Zoom. Gen Zers, for whom DOS prompts and keyboard commands are the stuff of science museums, are the most demanding. This group is raising the bar high on user experience (UX), speed and self-service.
Above all, in today’s data and KPI-driven business culture, XYZers expect software to ‘just work’. Each passing generation becomes increasingly intolerant of any friction or complexity that stands in the way of delivery. They definitely don’t want to have to rely on IT or data experts to use business software for planning, reporting, making decisions, or solving problems.
This issue is so important that we are seeing more and more prospective enterprise customers explicitly stating in their briefs that software must meet UX requirements that new generations of workers demand. There are business-critical reasons throughout the employee lifecycle to justify making XYZ satisfaction a priority, borne out by research.
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Attracting star employees
Let’s start at the beginning with the recruitment. Research from CompTIA revealed that two-thirds of millennials and Gen Zers responded that technology was a key factor in the employment decision. Since younger workers felt the most strongly about this, these figures have likely increased since this survey was carried out in 2018.
And keeping them
Fast forward to 2021, and we see an even greater urgency for organizations to listen to and meet the needs of their young ‘rising star’ employees in rapidly changing and ‘hybrid’ workplace environments. In July, Achievers and Censuswide found that 78 percent of Gen Z employees who didn’t feel heard or valued in the workplace were in the process of applying, or intending to apply, for new jobs.
When staff members cite not having the right tech tools to do their jobs, it could signpost a wider problem. In another global study run by Unisys, “The New Digital Workplace Divide” more than half of the respondents from "technology laggard" organizations reported being frustrated with their employers. Compare this to a mere 6 percent of workers from companies classed as "technology leaders" cited this same discontentment.
Gone unchecked, this will inevitably contribute to that high defection rate mentioned earlier. In a survey by G2, 24 percent of employees have considered quitting over bad software. The ones that do quit are likely to be among the most ambitious workers who fear they aren’t set up to succeed.
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The new hybrid workplace
If all this hasn’t given IT enough to deal with, another spanner has recently been thrown into the works: the new ‘hybrid’ workplace that’s been accelerated by the pandemic. Following years of varying degrees of lockdown, many people - especially older employees - plan to continue working from home. A growing number of untethered Millennials have opted to become ‘digital nomads’ living and working in exotic far-flung locations from Chiang Mai to Tbilisi. Younger generations are the most eager to return to the office to improve their professional development and escape their oppressive and disruptive flat-sharing environments. This means that business software must be easy-to-use (without IT support) and provide a relatively consistent experience whether accessed from home, work, or an island coffee shack.
Intelligent portals: a pragmatic solution
So far my argument has focused a lot on YZ-ers. However, we mustn’t overlook the Gen-Xers - after all they’re the ones in charge! The CompTIA research stated: “Younger employees are more focused on the faster implementation of new technologies while older employees would prefer the focus to be on making existing technology more user-friendly and reliable.”
On the one hand that’s good news. It suggests that the BI software you invested so much in back in 2003, for example, might - if upgraded - at least be able to satisfy your top managers, if not your younger employees. But what if the upgrades aren’t good enough? And how do you satisfy all generations?
The reality is that most enterprises have made significant investments in software for things like analytics and BI, ERP, financial reporting and collaboration, and aren’t in a position to write it all off and start fresh. Even if they did, there are few, if any, ‘one size-fits-all’ systems that meet the needs of every use case and worker.
The good news is that you don’t have to write off and replace your data and information systems. A new class of software - ‘Enterprise Portals’ - is coming onto the market to let you repackage your existing tools and drive more value from them than ever before. These sit on top of and provide a consistent interface to multiple existing business applications. They unlock access to reports from legacy tools and also enable the use of new, fast and frequently changing digital technologies.
As a case in point, one of our customers uses our intelligent portal as a single route into five different analytics and BI systems (ABI) and all the content previously accessed via seven different intranets. Five thousand people across 20 countries access reports, dashboards and self-service analytics for financial reporting, operational reporting, executive dashboards, and quick ad hoc data queries.
These users going through our portal don’t need to think about which ABI system to use, just what information they need to do their jobs. The UX is inspired by consumer applications like Netflix, Spotify, and Pinterest. These personalize the content each user sees when they login, recommending reports, dashboards and other content depending on role, preferences, and history.
By removing complexity at the point of use, intelligent portals promote greater collaboration and flexibility - what we call ‘digital dexterity’ - across the modern workplace. They also promote data literacy by allowing people to mix and match curated content from different systems into ‘stories’.
So if you are committed to meeting the needs of the XYZ workforce without compromising, an intelligent portal could be just the ticket.
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Kevin Hurd, Founder and CEO, Digital Hive (opens in new tab)