What Millennials and Gen Z Expect in the Workplace

Hint: you need to upgrade your enterprise apps

Jared Lindzon did a great summary writeup of a recently published study of Millennials and Gen Z workers covering some of their likes and dislikes in the current work environment. The study, conducted by HR service and consulting firms Future Workplace and Randstad, provides insights to their fairly common view of the workplace as both generations converge at work for the very first time. While there are many interesting takeaways from the study, the common thread I’d like to highlight is the desire and expectation for collaborative tools and processes.

The study calls Millennials and Gen Z the “collaboration generations” and tasks employers with providing collaboration tools, such as online communities, to enable them to work the way they believe is most effective. 41% of participants in the study wanted employers to incorporate social media in the workplace. 19% of participants who work in outperforming companies cited using an online community to collaborate as a benefit for doing their best work. 27% said that having a place to voice ideas led to their best work.

Enter the Enterprise Social Network

Enterprise social networks check all of those boxes. They are inherently social. They promote and enable communities of practice and interest. And, they provide avenues for ideation and innovation.

The days of top-down corporate communication laden intranets are over. To clarify, top-down communication isn’t done for — that is still a necessary part of corporate life. But, having an intranet that is solely for the purpose of getting official messages to employees, is no longer the best method to enable employee engagement, whether with those messages or among one another. The collaboration generations want to work together. They want to interact. They want to like, share, and co-create. They want to express their ideas. They want to get feedback on their ideas.

Enterprise social networks and applications with built-in social features will enable the emerging workforce to do their best work. If your company has been taking a “wait and see” approach to this enterprise 2.0 movement that started 10 years ago, it is time to get on the bandwagon or truly be left behind for good.

Two Final Thoughts

One thing bugged me a bit about this study, and it is the part that Jared highlighted in his Fast Company piece: that Gen Z and Millennials prefer in-person communication at the office over any other forms. I’ve got two explanations for why I think the participants answered this way.

1 Enterprise applications for email, instant messaging, internal social, and video conferencing mostly suck. Heck…phones, especially those germ-ridden office models, are even getting to be a thing of the past. So, why would anyone say these are the best methods for communicating with someone?

2 To compound the issue of lackluster enterprise applications, add in that this communication is occurring frequently between the collaboration generations and the not-so-collaboration generations of Gen X and Baby Boomers. It doesn’t do any good to use a modern communication technology if the person on the receiving end doesn’t know how to properly use it. HOLD UP…before you kill me and bombard me with nasty notes, I’m not saying all Gen X and Baby Boomers are at a loss for using newer technologies. They are not. I actually believe they crave the same types of tools and systems that younger generations do. However, old habits die hard. It isn’t simple to shift the way you have done things for years and adapt to a new model. It is even more difficult when the new model you are attempting to adapt to is a rudimentary copy of the state of the art apps you use in your personal life.

In the end, all signs point to it being primetime for upgrading those enterprise applications we expect our emerging and tenured workers to use on a daily basis.

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