How the Digital Generation is Shifting Today’s Collaboration Needs, and Why You Need to Listen

By - Dr. Fiona Lodge – Group SVP Collaboration, Dimension Data and Glenn Hangan – Millennial & Emerging Leader, Dimension Data

Dr. Fiona Lodge – Group SVP Collaboration, Dimension Data
Dr. Fiona Lodge – Group SVP Collaboration, Dimension Data
One noteworthy insight from our company’s recent Connected Enterprise Report and Global Customer Experience Benchmark Report was that Enterprises appear to be focusing more on transforming how they interact with their customers than on how their own staff collaborate effectively. One of the reasons for this focus may be that it’s simply easier to measure how the transformational benefits around Customer Experience drive top and bottom line, whereas the business benefits of internal transformation are less easy to measure.
However, as every HR department knows, one of the most critical assets every company has is the quality of the employees they attract and retain. Irrespective of how you personally feel about the Millennial generation, the reality is that they are critical to the future of your organization. They are tech-savvy, mobile (inside and outside the office), very social, and they prefer to work for organizations that empower them to collaborate in ways they find natural.
A Culture of Creativity
Today’s young employees are naturally social, and they’ve grown up using technology to collaborate with peers for everything from school projects to weekend plans. Unlike other generations, technology has allowed their collaboration to be significantly less formal, directly impacting the ways they prefer to work. They love being part of a team, and they thrive on collaborating in social real-time ways to meet shared goals.
They have grown up using technology to seamlessly transition from one mode of communication to the next. As such, they’re attracted to organizations that facilitate that same fluidity in their work life. Email and “plain old” voice calls are perceived as formal and less collaborative. Millennials prefer a more ad hoc and engaging collaboration style that fosters a strong sense of team – instant messaging, video, screensharing and virtual whiteboards are all perceived as social, in that they empower teams to collaborate informally to achieve a shared goal.
Above almost anything else, Millennials do not respond well to the well-defined roles, structures and communication modes previous generations used. They crave opportunities to innovate and to be given the time, outside the tasks of their daily workloads, to create and drive ideas that are valued and adopted by their employers – they want to have an impact! And they’re used to finding, and sometimes even developing, their own apps to solve problems, share ideas and create that impact.
Productive Work Places and Workstyles
Young professionals value work-life balance and seek work environments where they are both respected and trusted and where they can find human interaction, friendships and acceptance. Their social natures mean they do like to come to the office, but that space must provide a level of fluidity and mobility that encourages and facilitates creativity and productivity – open settings, hot desks, huddle rooms, phone booths and yes, even beanbags! Millennials simply thrive when they get work environments, mobile devices and collaboration tools that eliminate barriers (both physical and organizational) and enable ad hoc and effective communication and idea sharing between employees with different roles, goals and experiences.
Nurturing a sense of team is important – irrespective of whether that team is in an office or separated by distance. Anything that gives the distributed Millennial team the chance to feel immersed in the creative experience and part of a shared space (even if virtual) is preferred over sitting in a cubicle and touching base every so often with email.
Glenn Hangan – Millennial & Emerging Leader, Dimension Data
Glenn Hangan – Millennial & Emerging Leader, Dimension Data
Developing Talent
A shift is already underway as more organizations move from scheduled KPI based assessments towards activity-based performance reviews. Millennials seek out goals and KPIs that are project-based and chosen collaboratively between employee and manager. They prefer feedback that is frequent and honest, allowing for open communication, honesty and trusting relationships.
When working with their manager, today’s young talent responds better to an individualized but informal touch. They are more comfortable with the conversations happening in person in a casual setting, or if virtually, via video. This is even more true when receiving negative feedback because the more personal approach is perceived as more constructive and less aggressive.
Why Organizations Need to Prepare
There is no one technology required for today’s top young talent, but there are three pillars high on every Millennial’s list: trust, responsibility and freedom of choice. The best collaboration and workplace solutions develop, amplify and build on those three pillars.
The most widely deployed forms of communication within an organization – email and voice calls – are among the two least favored modes of communication by Millennials. Instead, they ask for more social modes of communication – instant messaging, video and shared (virtual) workspaces that create that sense of team. And if they don’t get these from IT, they go find them themselves. No matter how excellent your IT team is at providing collaboration solutions for your employees, today’s young professionals will always find innovative solutions to help them do their jobs more efficiently and more socially, even if those solutions aren’t provided by IT.
Rather than seeing this as a risk, modern IT teams should embrace it as an opportunity to evaluate technology frameworks and processes that empower employees to use apps that fit their workstyles, while still allowing IT to retain control of cost, quality, security, governance and policy enforcement.
If you’re not already thinking about this, you should be – Millennials already make up 35% of the workforce and 20% of leadership. They are projected to become the outright majority of the workforce by 2020. Transforming how your employees collaborate to meet the needs and expectations of this generation is critical to the ongoing success of your business. The best and brightest young talent is going to organizations that are ready to embrace and nurture the way they prefer to work – make sure yours is one of them!