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September 18, 2019

What Generational Divide? Bridging the Gap in the Modern Workplace

"Employees entering the workforce should not mean that a divide is created."

By CBR Staff Writer

Millennials (or, those born between the early 1980s and early 2000s), are no longer newcomers to the workplace writes Joe Morley, Microsoft 365 specialist, SoftwareONE.

Joe Morley

Joe Morley

In fact, research has found that they now make up 35 percent of the UK workforce, and will grow to represent 50 percent of the global workforce by 2020. And far from just slotting in, this tech-savvy group are having a profound impact on the way organisations work, with very different demands of their employers when it comes to their workplace IT. But does this cause conflict with those already in the workforce? And, if so, what can IT managers do to balance this?

Is preference a problem?

Millennials have grown up in a world of rapid tech innovation – with many of those in the younger bracket scarcely having known a world without social media – and they want similar tools ready for them in their offices. However, this doesn’t necessarily match up with the wants of existing workers; recent research from Microsoft on the changing nature of work showed some significant contrasts between millennials and older generations. For instance, the research highlighted that millennials prefer ‘persistent chat’ channels (topic-based discussion rooms that do not disappear), and virtual online meetings without video. Meanwhile, baby boomers and Generation X show a clear preference for email.

For organisations, this raises an issue of how to deliver on these expectations whilst keeping both the existing employees and the newer arrivals happy. It’s a careful balancing act of making sure that present workers don’t feel left behind or overwhelmed by new tools, whilst also ensuring that the newcomers don’t feel the company is failing to keep up with them. With one part of the workforce demanding new applications, and the other part unsure how to use them, how can IT managers bridge the gap?

Channelling Productivity

An employee’s age changes how they use the IT in the workplace: this is something IT managers need to recognise. But it doesn’t have to be a negative. For example, the typical millennial is likely to open a collaborative teamwork application first, such as Trello, Slack, Teams, etc., rather than email. This choice isn’t without its benefits to the company – teamwork apps are quick and feature-rich, whereas email is slow and single function by comparison. For instance, a team-based app gives millennials the ability to chat instantly with colleagues; to use integrated planning and scheduling within app to coordinate with co-workers; and to access work across both mobile and desktop, allowing them to remain productive and connected even when working remotely.

These features make millennials far more productive and efficient, something that should be harnessed by organisations and applied to the wider workforce. With employees now working on twice as many teams as they did five years ago, effective collaboration is even more critical. As such, organisations need to put in place a strategy to help other sections of the workforce explore and understand the benefits of features they don’t yet know about.

Champions, roadmaps and guidance

To do this successfully, organisations will need to build out clear roadmaps which define the scope and objectives of change and the ways in which employees work will be impacted. Organisations should prioritise the groups that will be most affected by these changes, providing support to them through tools and resources such as learning portals and webinars. But just as important as educating and training their workers is inspiring them; employees who are used to their way of working will need to see how new tools and technologies can benefit them and genuinely want to put them into practice. An important part of achieving this will be through choosing the right people within the organisation who will drive the change and lead the way in inspiring their fellow employees to learn and embrace the many new tools that the modern workplace has to offer.

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Ultimately, the growing number of younger employees entering the workforce should not mean that a divide is created. Rather than sitting idly, organisations should harness the enthusiasm of the millennials to use new and innovative tools. In this way, businesses can modernise the rest of their workforce, improving productivity, efficiency and collaboration; in doing so all employees can reap the benefits of working like a millennial, even if they are not one.

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