Today’s most productive knowledge workers -- business professionals who are contributing, sharing insight and experiences, participating in decision making and influencing change -- are a company’s true competitive advantage. They are paid to think and collaborate with distributed team members, contractors, partners, suppliers and vendors across an increasingly global workplace to help grow an enterprise’s bottom line.
However, the composition of this critical asset is changing. Two-thirds of the workforce is made up of Millennials and Gen Xers now and the way they work is different from their older colleagues. They opt for quick, casual and efficient ways of working and choose tools that meet these needs. Millennials, in particular, are the first generation to grow up in a connected world. Most do not remember a time without computers, smartphones and the Internet.
We conducted a survey to figure out exactly how this plays out in the workplace. Here’s what we learned from the poll of 753 business professionals:
- More than half of Millennials (60%) and Gen Xers (56%) use publicly available document sharing platforms, including Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud and Instagram, for work collaboration. In contrast, only 38% of Baby Boomers use these same platforms.
- Thirty-two percent of Millennials collaborate on their mobile devices compared to 23% of Baby Boomers.
- Nearly half of Millennials (45%) prefer chat or text to collaborate with coworkers, vendors, or partners. On the opposite side, 36% of Baby Boomers find chat or text to be the least effective form of collaboration that they use.
- Forty percent of Millennials favor online meetings to in-person, compared to only 26% of Baby Boomers.
Millennials are also not happy with the tools they have to collaborate at work. While this same survey revealed that 59% of all knowledge workers were dissatisfied with their collaboration tools, the number was even higher for Millennials; 71% said they face challenges, compared to 45% of Baby Boomers.
The problem is that tech savvy knowledge workers, particularly Millennials and Gen Xers, seek the most efficient ways to work. If their company collaboration tools do not meet their needs, they will find options elsewhere. Yet there can be severe consequences when employees rely on solutions not designed with the enterprise in mind. Often security and privacy are overlooked when business professionals employ alternative collaboration tools at work. What can organizations do to manage this?
- Adopt flexible tools. Today’s enterprise collaboration solutions are not flexible enough for the younger workforce. Now more than ever, companies need tools that can work effortlessly on the most popular computing systems and devices, including mobile, provide user-friendly capabilities for wide adoption, and, most importantly, safeguard critical content
- Be somewhat scrupulous. Just because employees are using everything doesn’t mean that you need to adopt everything. Managing digital content and the workflow associated requires some careful thought to facilitate collaboration while also protecting the enterprise. As new tools flood the market, make sure you carefully vet them to ensure they meet your needs, both from the user point of view, and from the executive point of view.
- Educate your employees. One of the more interesting insights of our survey is that younger employees simply don’t think about the security and privacy implications of the tools they use. While 49% of Baby Boomers always consider data security or privacy issues only 37% of Gen Xers and 28% of Millennials do. Take the time to educate employees, either formally or informally, about the security issues with the tools they are using and not only how they can negatively impact your business, but also the individual employees themselves.
Without a doubt, there is huge value in unleashing the power of workplace collaboration. By working together, employees can help develop better products and services, connect strategy with execution, make more effective business decisions and increase revenue. But, as our workforce gets younger and more digital, companies must ensure that effective workplace collaboration keeps pace.