In 2019, five generations are sharing the North American workforce: the older Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and the young Gen Z workers. With their different personal experiences, communication styles, and comfort levels with technology, how can today’s IT leaders set them all up for success?
Bringing unified communication and collaboration (UCC) tools together in one user-friendly place is a good starting point, according to Mark Strassman, SVP and general manager, Communication & Collaboration, LogMeIn. Consolidating the varied streams of communication – voice, text, emails, apps, and web – saves time and makes it easier for workers of all ages to set priorities and respond to important messages.
For instance, the telephone and television shaped the Boomers, while the PC and email were fundamental for Gen Xers. Millennials grew up with smartphones, texts, and social media, while Gen Z, born after 1995, like video, virtual reality, and wearable devices.
“There are many opportunities for consolidating technology, but you have to avoid the pitfalls you navigate a diverse, distributed and often demanding multi-generational workforce,” said Strassman. He moderated an Enterprise Connect 2019 session, “Meeting the Needs of Graduates to Grandparents: How Consolidated Communications is Enabling the Modern Workforce,” with multi-generational panelists Paul Davis, VP, Voice Alliance Partners Poly; Mike Sharp, chief product officer, UCC LogMeIn; and Matt Swulinski, senior partner and lead growth hacker, Klyxx Creative.
Strassman pointed out that each generation has a “default” form of communication, as well as a signature technology product based on their early experiences in life. For instance, the telephone and television shaped the Boomers, while the PC and email were fundamental for Gen Xers. Millennials grew up with smartphones, texts, and social media, while Gen Z, born after 1995, like video, virtual reality, and wearable devices.
“You see all these tools and applications in the workforce,” said Strassman. But it’s not just technology – it’s also office locations. The generations have varying comfort levels regarding working in a traditional corporate headquarters, or on a remote, distributed, or virtual basis.
Asked about preferred channels of communication, Davis said he uses all of today’s tools. “But I like to talk face to face over the table,” he said. “You can’t close big deals over a text message.”
Sharp said younger workers are more comfortable with interruptions and want faster responses to their messages than older generations. “Sometimes we think there’s a right way and a wrong way to do things,” he added. “But communication preferences are not moral issues. Instead, we have to focus on the practical side.”
Sharp noted that UCC tools could help provide the right context for workplace interactions. “Everyone finds it hard to switch from one thing to another, so avoiding distractions saves mental energy.”
Swulinski agreed, noting that UCC deployments can improve productivity. “For me, UCC is all about consolidation,” he said. “I get messages from 10 clients, and pulling those inbound channels can decrease the noise and help me focus on one thing at a time.”
A UCC infrastructure can also make it easier for IT professionals to manage the network, help users and meet compliance standards,” added Sharp. “Make things simple, and your IT team and your users will all be happy,” he said.
Here are some other tips on UCC from the panelists:
- Ignore stereotypes – everyone has individual communication preferences
- Don’t dwell on differences – keep teams moving forward together
- Don’t assume everyone is speaking the same language – ask questions and clarify the responses when implementing a new tool
- Define and train on common practices
- Focus on relationships and collaboration
Summing up the discussion, Strassman said, “Selecting the right UCC solutions will empower employees of all generations who have come to expect technology that works – and works the way they do.”