As Millennials’ presence in the workforce continues to increase, the general landscape of the office is evolving. Millennials bring different priorities and aspirations to the office that diverge from those of the dwindling Baby Boomer generation. While money is, of course, still desirable, it is no longer the dominating factor. Millennials prioritize the importance of life outside work, seeking more flexible hours and the chance to work remotely. In the office, they want a team-centered work environment to collaborate with colleagues near and far. Moreover, Millennials are more likely to welcome the idea of bringing new technology into the workplace than their Baby Boomer predecessors. Ultimately, it is through this adoption of new technology that Millennials will be able to achieve the flexible and collaborative work environment they desire.
This changing structure of the workplace presents a big opportunity for installers. As companies seek to adopt new collaborative technology to satisfy their growing Millennial workforce, they will also seek someone to help them complete this transition by selecting and installing the best technology for their evolving needs.
While Millennials have a growing desire to work more flexibly and more remotely, they are also more interested in working collaboratively. In fact, Millennials support a more collaborative work environment than any other cohort. Considering the ubiquitous use of social media by this generation of digital natives and their engagement in larger, global, online communities over the course of their entire lives, this isn’t hard to understand. Millennials are uniquely social. Sharing ideas, learning from others, and co-producing is a generational hallmark. They are long accustomed to collaborating via technology and would like to extend this custom into their professional activities.
Collaborative technology is not just a cushy perk that Millennials seek to exploit; rather, it helps them to work more productively. People are more productive and more content when they’re able to easily collaborate with their team and/or clients from their personal work space, whether it be in the office, on the road, or at home. Moreover, they want to be able to use the same technological platforms at work that they use in their personal lives: smartphones, tablets, and laptops. To achieve this effective collaboration, companies must provide their employees with technology that enables them to work together and complete projects as if they were together in the same room—even if they’re physically scattered across the globe. Millennials embrace this kind of collaborative technology and virtual workspaces and are 10 percent more tech-oriented and collaborative than the norm, according to a workforce trends report from Dell and Intel.
Collaborative technology makes employees and their companies happier and more productive.
It’s not only Millennial employees who favor using collaborative technology in the workplace—employers welcome benefits that are twofold in the workplace. First, allowing individuals to work from home results in both increased productivity and increased employee satisfaction, according to Stanford professor Nick Bloom and colleagues. And, happy workers are more productive; economists have found that happiness can be quantified in terms of productivity and that happy workers are 12 percent more productive. Collaborative technology, such as videoconferencing, pleases millennial workers as it allows them to work remotely and with more flexible hours. According to Global Workforce Analytics, somewhere between 80 to 90 percent of U.S. workers said in 2016 that they would like to telework at least part time. Imagine if 80 to 90 percent of the workforce were happier, and therefore 12 percent more productive? Those levels of happiness and productivity benefit both parties, and thus, today’s successful companies are those who provide their employees with the technology to work in this way.
As generations shift, Millennials are now beginning to dominate the workforce. According to EY, 75 percent of the workforce will comprise Millennials by 2025. Unlike when Baby Boomers were the majority, the new workforce wants to learn new technology and use it in their work environment. After all, the Millennial generation has long been early adopters of emerging technology, and has communicated this way their entire lives, using FaceTime, Skype, Snapchat, Periscope, and a myriad of other apps; so, they are well eager to embrace new kinds of technology at work, such as HD videoconferencing. For this reason, it is now an opportune time for installers to step in and provide companies with the technology Millennials are seeking.
Now is the time for companies to increase their use of collaborative technology.
Clearly, businesses are expanding their virtual presence. The application of visual communications collaboration technologies continues to grow in support of ever-larger numbers of people working remotely. Fifty-two percent of the global workforce already spends at least some of its time working remotely, according to Dell and Intel. However, even in the office, company structure is changing to better nurture collaboration.
For example, the traditional “cube farm” office environment is morphing into open-space plans with a choice of flexible meeting spaces where the atmosphere is casual and collaborative work is done in huddle spaces and conference rooms, which are now likely to have videoconferencing capabilities. The days of having a single, technology-advanced conference room are on the wane because every meeting, no matter how casual or formal, is improved when all teammates can be present—physically or virtually.
Of course, even when people work remotely, reliable visual communication is still vital. Understanding non-verbal cues is important; team members must be able to see and hear one another clearly and reliably to ascertain the same important postures and facial expressions present in in-person interaction. Compared to an audio-only conference call, videoconferencing offers participants a fully engaged experience that rivals that of actual face-to-face interaction.
While crucial nonverbal signals used in communication are completely lost in an audio-only exchange, they take on almost cinematic inflections in videoconferencing’s high definition. What we see on the screen, just as we observe in real life, may be fleeting; but, high definition and high frame rate videoconferencing provides users a substantial advantage over those working in the audio-only realm. Extending the value of interaction even farther, the best systems allow users to save and print the work that they created collaboratively, and then share it with others who were unable to attend the session.
It is clear that companies’ structures must adjust to the growing demand and need, as presented by Millennials, for increased flexibility, collaboration, and technology in the workplace. In order to compete both for top talent and customers, companies must ensure that they are equipped with technology robust and collaborative enough to meet employee and company requirements. Skype, Facetime, and Google Hangouts are nice for friends for one-to-one casual conversations, but businesses require advanced features and more stability to create an atmosphere of true collaboration.
True collaboration means that team members, local and remote, develop a common operating picture—seeing the same information clearly, understanding it completely, and interacting with it fully, at the same time or asynchronously if time zones are a factor. Far beyond the technology used by teens to connect visually, HD collaboration tools allow every member of a business team to have the same meeting experience, including seeing every meeting participant and their nonverbal cues and simultaneously viewing, manipulating, saving, and sharing data in real time, regardless of whether they are physically in the room, in a distant office, at home, or on the road.
Similarly, as smart companies adopt new, collaborative technology, smart integrators will jump at the chance to provide it. This changing workplace landscape presents a huge opportunity for integrators and installers to expand their business. Companies know that they need new technology to keep up in the highly competitive market and to suit the needs of the burgeoning Millennial workforce. But, they are going to need partners to help them do it. In order to facilitate a successful transition to the new landscape of collaborative technology, companies will need consultants and integrators to help them discern which technology and processes will be most beneficial for them and how these systems can be best integrated into their practices.