Playwright Oscar Wilde once said ‘I am not young enough to know everything’.
It was a sideswipe at the arrogance of youth. But the joke may be on him as the millennial workforce changes the way we work. The generation, born roughly in the decade after 1983, are bringing with them new ways of working that are forcing their older peers – not to mention the business itself – to adapt.
Brought up in a digital era, this generation depends on technology to stay connected and solve problems. This attitude towards technology is also trickling into their professional lives.
They have brought their new methods to the office – in part, because we are facing one of the fastest demographic shifts ever seen in the workplace.
When previous generations started work, they had the same limited tools as everybody else. On the other hand, millennials have brought their tools, attitudes and expectations to the office.
Today, the world is our office. We could be at an airport, a museum or a coffee shop and be virtually connected and working with colleagues located on the other side of the world. What’s more, we use our own personal devices to do it. And then there are the collaborative apps – the Over the Top (OTT) connections that bypass traditional physical networks to communicate.
The growth of mobile working
Introduced by millennials for millennials, mobile working is everywhere. As a society we rely on it more than we ever did before. What’s more, technology advancements are making it possible to take collaboration one step further. It has provided a seismic shift in the way we conduct work and in many ways, millennials are in control of it. They talk, text, have video chats, email and browse the internet from their mobile devices, turning their smartphones into advanced communication tools and taking full advantage of the speed and availability of today’s mobile networks.
Millennials wants to be able to speak to colleagues or clients and collaborate with off-site associates in the same manner as they do in the office.
When transferred to the workplace, this means that a regional sales manager can now connect to his team on a presentation from the train; a product development specialist can work on specifications with an outside supplier from a local coffee shop; a field manager can share updates with a team of technicians with the simple push of a button.
Today, it is all about collaboration and providing the tools to network wherever you are. As remote working becomes the norm, these tools also need to develop and adapt to this changing workforce. Businesses need to stay ahead of the game and allow employees to interact, operate and collaborate from nearly any device.
Adoption of new technology
This influx of millennials and change in working practices has organisations scrambling to find a competitive edge over their competition. The investment and adoption of new technologies has risen at a breakneck rate.
The workforce now demand integrated and flexible solutions that bring multiple tools, such as instant messaging (IM), conferencing, email, voice and video calling together.
Companies are also developing their own applications to attract this rejuvenated workforce and support their employees in the ways they are most comfortable communicating.
For instance, virtual reality (VR) is no longer restricted to video games; it is making more and more inroads into real-world applications. So, we don’t have to physically be in the office when we can virtually be there.
VR participants can take part in meetings, for instance, making it feel as though they are there, even if they are really halfway around the world.
And we’ve already started on the journey with AI. In the next 10 years, AI will completely change the way we have meetings. Not only will AI become remote assistants, they will become active participants, able to assist with creative and strategic intelligence to enhance company productivity.
Addressing workplace productivity
All of these new ways of working will also hopefully address the age-old problem of work / life balance. Various studies have shown the adverse effect of overwork on both the productivity and morale of the workforce.
Millennials are making the push toward a new way of working. They demand new solutions. This is why it is critical for businesses to invest in the right tools to stay ahead of the game – they will allow employees to work together from any device and location in near real-time. Businesses are quickly realising the benefits of this always on, interconnected world.
Generation Z are also just about to enter the workforce. They often use Instant Messaging apps, which means many of them don’t use traditional tools such as email for their day to day interactions. They are also already familiar with automated tools, such as chatbots, that have the ability to make our workplace more efficient. These automated tools can take the grunt out of work such as the menial tasks that don’t need human intervention. The theory is that the humans will have more time to dedicate to creative and productive labours.
The workplace is changing like never before, and the younger generation are leading that charge. Organisations need to take into account this generational shift and prepare for this generation’s way of working and communicating. This is key to maintaining a productive and collaborative workforce. Businesses adapt to changing consumer attitudes to remain competitive; the same needs to be true for the changing needs of the workforce.
John Vladimir Slamecka, Region President, EMEA, AT&T
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