Managing Millennials’ Expectations for Business Communications
According to Pew Research, Millennials surpassed Generation X as the largest single cohort in the US workforce in 1Q 2015, and will constitute an absolute majority of the workforce by the mid-2020s. However, the interests and expectations of millennials for technology — when viewed in isolation — can be misleading when the demographic mix of the workforce as a whole is taken into account. This is especially true for telecom Service Providers, who typically are not selling directly to consumers, but rather, to older managers or executives who must balance the needs and expectations of different generational cohorts in their offices along with their own knowledge of and comfort with new technologies. When putting together a service offering and considering OTT integrations, Service Providers must take into account the expectations of these different groups in order to provide a solution that will balance Millennials’ tech savvy and sophistication with the familiarity and reliability of more traditional services favored by older generational cohorts.
Who are millennials, and what do they want?
As the first so-called “digital natives,” Millennials — defined by Pew as adults born after 1980 — believe in the principles of mobility, transparency, and collaboration that have defined the development of the internet and, more broadly, the development of IP-based communications technologies. They expect to see these principles in the communications applications they use as well as the workplaces they inhabit. For the Service Provider this means that Unified Communications platforms premised on collaboration and openness are immediately appealing and gain traction among Millennial employees, and in many cases, employees of this generation adopt services prior to their official integration into the office communications system. While this early adoption is disturbing for some, it is often a reflection of an earnest desire for efficiency and ubiquity, to harness the benefits to be gained from embracing innovation.
Who is everybody else, and what do they want?
Millennials are not the only ones in the office who will be making use of new communications technology, however. The remainder of the working population, predominantly composed of members of generation X and baby boomers (who made up 34% and 29% of the workforce in 1Q 2015, respectively) will also be using these telecommunications systems, and their expectations, though not uniform, nevertheless can be distinguished from those of millennials in several key respects.
Unlike millennials, older generations are not immediately receptive to new technology simply because it’s new, and are in fact more likely to be skeptical of bold claims about new services or mediums. If you or a colleague has ever asked, “what’s so great about Slack, anyway?” you’ll know what’s meant by this. In addition, they’re more comfortable with hierarchical systems, both in terms of the delegation of power and responsibility within an office and in terms of how communications systems work. This preference for established, top-down services isn’t always reflexive reactionism, however, but is often simply a desire to continue using what has demonstrated its reliability, predictability, and security, in other words, those services that have proven their worth.
What are the challenges, and how are they addressed in IT Communications?
Despite the real merits of these philosophies with regard to tech, the differences between them can often lead to tension and misunderstanding between generations in an office environment. Millennials’ desire for ubiquity, aversion to information siloing and preference for BYOD and early adoption of new applications can create risks to data security and upset established (and valuable) workflows and business-wide standards. Conversely, older generations’ preference for established applications and approaches along with hierarchical organization can hinder timely deployment of new, valuable technologies and slow business processes that would be better served by a more collaborative approach. In addition, millennials approach to work is focused more on outcomes that in-office time, and many younger workers embrace mobile working and telecommuting at a higher rate than their older colleagues.
From a telecommunications perspective, the most significant difference between these generations is found in millennial’s comfort with mobility and remote work, rather than a need to put in face time in the office. This preference for flexible work can be addressed without diminishing productivity by incorporating the following solutions, that allow workers to communicate and collaborate with their colleagues no matter where they are situated:
- Presence: The “new dialtone,” Rich Presence Technology allows users of the Unified Communications platform to observe whether or not other users are online, what they are doing, whether they are at home or in the office, and so forth.
- One Number Reach/Find me follow me: These technologies assign the user a public number, and then dial sequentially through a list of other numbers designated by the user, allowing him or her to be reached no matter the location or device at hand.
- Mobility: This technology makes the UC Platform accessible to the user on his or her mobile device, typically granting access to telephony and messaging capabilities.
- Desktop client: This technology grants the user access to all of the UC Platform’s telephony, messaging, and other features from the user’s personal computer desktop, allowing for integration into the system even when the computer is off premises.
- Web Conferencing: This technology allows a group of users to view the same screen in their web browser or desktop client, making collaboration and sharing dramatically easier.
- Video calling/Conferencing: This technology allows for two (or in some cases larger groups) of users to share a video and voice link, either through hardware integrated or added to the computer desktop or video-capable IP phone, or through specialized video-conferencing setups.
More generally, UC Platforms making use of cutting edge technologies reduce the demand for non-integrated OTT applications among Millennials in the workplace. In other words, many of the reasons that Millennials adopt OTT services outside of their company’s IT infrastructure — a desire for quick and easy messaging with applications like Facebook messenger or Slack, easy video conferencing with private Skype, etc. — can be eliminated or at least minimized by adopting a UC platform that possesses these functionalities. This reduces the inefficiencies and data security risks inherent to uneven adoption of non-IT approved applications. Ultimately, deploying a Hosted PBX running on a modern UC Platform can greatly reduce inter-generational tension in the office, and unify the best of each generation’s approaches to communications technology and its use.