Baby Boomers brought us Microsoft and Apple, while Generation X, the supposed slackers, brought us their biggest rival: Google. Now it’s Generation Y changing the game. Established around the time Faceboook founder Mark Zuckerberg was born, this generation—the Millennials —have never known a time when connectivity isn’t constant.
When it comes to the enterprise, the communication gap usually stems from what “traditional types” are used to, and what the technologically-dependent demand. Although the mobile workforce has literally exploded in the last three years across all age groups — to coincide with the proliferation of mobile devices and ability to easily access corporate information — the difference now is how
generations prefer to communicate.
"Communication has become more immediate, frequent and rich in content,” said Tony Jamous, CEO, Nexmo, via email. He noted that younger generations use SMS in a way similar to instant messaging. “They exchange shorter and more frequent messages. They also perceive SMS and Instant Messaging as their main communication channel on mobile, whereas older generations would rely more on voice. It is not uncommon for a teen to exchange more than 100 SMS’ per day."
also talked to Rob Bellmar, Senior Vice President of Conferencing & Collaboration, InterCall, and Andy McLoughlin, Co-Founder & EVP Strategy, Huddle, in two separate interviews. Both industry veterans agreed that Millennials do not want to be pigeonholed by form factors or the “expected” way of communicating. Working, to them, is not 9 to 5 and not being able to get access to corporate data, whenever, wherever, is a foreign concept.
“They do not see work as work, but part of something bigger,” said Bellmar. And as such, if a Millennial is suddenly inspired to finish a project at 3:00 in the morning, it’s not something that individual sees as out of the ordinary.
According to the recent American Express OPEN Ages Survey, although all generations use social media, 68% of Generation Y entrepreneurs gravitate toward Facebook (68%), while 42% of Baby Boomer entrepreneurs opt for Linkedin. The former is also more likely to use technology to market their business (81%) as compared to the latter (61%).
“Thanks to social media, they can have conversations in real time,” McLoughlin said, adding one can easily get a message to 5,000 individuals, either on Twitter or another social site with large audiences. “Older generations can do it but have to take the leap.”
The OPEN survey also shows that one group is changing its perception about online, while the other remains leery: 50% of the Gen Y entrepreneurs surveyed believe “business relationships made through social media are as valuable as traditional relationships.” Contrast that to 41% of Baby Boomers who see such relationships as less valuable than “real/actual” business relationships.
“The beautiful thing is, technology gives you the ability to interact with people whom you would not have otherwise,” said McLoughlin.
But in the midst of this, is the “eye-to-eye” type of conversation taking a backseat? Jamous noted that applications like Line, who introduced “emotional messaging” which uses stickers instead of basic emoticons, have seen tremendous growth in the last year.
“Absolutely not,” McLoughlin replied.
How They Learn
All age groups are acting as drivers, demanding data access and content sharing across the board, from sales professionals in the field to executives in the C-Suite. However, while older generations are embracing technology for such purposes, for the Millennials, this isn’t something new, but something they have been doing all of their lives.
Because today’s technology is being introduced to younger and younger ages, children are growing up with tools at home and tools in the classroom. Here’s the pivotal point: the way that child uses technology is affecting his or her ability to learn.
Dr. Sharon Oviatt, author of The Design of Future Educational Interfaces
, has conducted extensive research that shows, astoundingly, that a child using a digital pen, instead of a keyboard, can increase his or her performance rates anywhere from 10-40% in the areas of math, science and reasoning.
High performers will perform well regardless of which tool is provided, she noted to Mobile Enterprise
. However, low performers actually do worse when learning with a keyboard, because they are struggling with figuring out how to use the tool. The digital pen, on the other hand, allows them to maintain, and in some cases increase, their performance rate.
In all cases, she said, children see the tools as computers, which they find exciting. As a result, communication actually increases in the classroom.
The Wandering Mind
Within minutes of using technology, the brain is cognitively affected. It’s that simple. With repeated use, Dr. Oviatt explained, the brain can and will change behavioral patterns. And that is for someone at any age, whether they are used to technology 24/7 or not. This can lead to an individual tethered to devices - checking email every two minutes, compulsively taking phone calls while in the middle of a conversation with someone else, etc.
While technology is a great enabler and barrier breaker, there is at least one notable negative resulting from constant connectivity: Millennials have less inhibition to using technology even when it is not appropriate, are more impulsive to start tasks no matter what the situation and have developed fragmented attention spans.
Dr. Oviatt advised that parental guidance can play a large part in offsetting these patterns (albeit with future generations) by limiting the use of technology when it is not called for.
The New Enterprise
According to MTV’s No Collar Worker survey, 81% of Millennials believe they should be able to set their own work hours, 88% want coworkers to be their friends, and 80% want regular feedback from their bosses. If we looked at these stats, combined with results from the American Express OPEN survey, the Millennial mindset is clear: Work is not work but an extension of life.
With that in mind, are enterprises supposed to adapt or is it the other way around? Or a compromise?
“Any good manager should implement what Millennials expect,” McLoughlin said, because “if companies aren’t providing the correct environment, the employees will jump.”
Like instructional parents, however, the enterprise must also set ground rules in addition to providing the resources. Research from Huddle and IPSOS Mori, to be released next week, shows that Millennials are more likely to download personal apps and software onto enterprise mobile devices. A strictly enforced BYOD policy would curtail that risk. Managers can, and should, also promote interpersonal relationships.
Finally, Bellmar noted that the workforce tools themselves have to be considered. One-click or one-tap apps can easily populate a calendar for example, which many individuals already use. “Now do that in a multi-party environment,” he said, adding, “The tools actually exist but are not necessarily widely adopted. A lot of employees are comfortable with the old ways of doing business which does not resonate with the Millennial workforce.”
And if this all seems like too much to contemplate, remember this: As obtaining and retaining talent becomes a greater challenge —especially recruiting those with technical skills in rapidly moving areas like app development and cybersecurity — enterprises that evolve usually gain competitive advantage.
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