This is the year in which millennials became the majority of the working population around the world. And, while there have been several studies about what makes them different in terms of their use of technology in their personal and business lives, Dell and Intel decided to take a bit of a deeper dive into the business side of things and have published Future Workforce Study. Its goal was identification of the global technology trends shaping the modern workplace in general with some specifics about the millennials.
The results of the study, conducted by research firm PSB which polled nearly 4,000 full-time employees from small, medium and large businesses in 10 countries, are illuminating, to say the least, and worth a download.
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Study highlights to ponder cited by the authors include:
This expectation is highest amongst the younger workforce, with 69 percent expecting to be in a smart office within the next five years. The consequences for not meeting these expectations is also greater for the millennial workforce, with 42 percent saying they would quit a job with substandard technology and 82 percent saying workplace technology influences what role they would take.
Further, a majority of workers place an emphasis on functional benefits with 63 percent of millennials and 55 percent of older workers (over 35 years old) indicating they would rather have high tech perks, such as augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR) and Internet of Things (IoT) than low-tech perks like ping pong, free food, etc.
While 57 percent of global employees still prefer to have face-to-face conversations with colleagues, half of global employees and three in five millennials think better communication technology and remote teams will make face-to-face conversation obsolete in the near future. In fact, a majority of workers in China, India and South Africa already do not prefer face-to-face conversations and instead use collaborative technologies to communicate with colleagues. Within this evolution, 79 percent of millennials believe workspaces are more collaborative than they used to be, and over 70 percent of millennials feel that advanced tech/smart offices are crucial to a collaborative, productive and efficient work environment.
Further, employees noted that virtual-sharing allows for collaboration with colleagues while remote capabilities would be the most beneficial technology integration into their office lives.
While millennials are the keenest for this convergence, interestingly it isn’t just the younger workforce members who are looking forward to the introductions of these technologies into their working lives. Two thirds (66 percent) of the global population would be willing to use AR/VR products in their professional lives, while 46 percent believe the technologies will improve productivity within their individual roles. Just under two thirds (62 percent) also believe that the introduction of artificial intelligence will make their jobs easier, while half (50 percent) say AI will lead to more productivity in the workplace, with 30 percent listing the ability to automate complex or repetitive tasks as the major immediate advantage.
Over half (52 percent) of employees already work outside of a traditional office at least one day a week, while 18 percent are working from a public location every week. Employees are also seeing the advancement of technologies to better enable these new working arrangements, with respondents listing advanced security protection as the single most important technology to be implemented into their workplace.
The 2016 Future Workforce Study states, “The workplace is reaching a tipping point. Today’s workers have a growing expectation that their employers integrate the latest technologies seamlessly and securely into their working lives,” said Allison Dew, vice president, global client solutions marketing, Dell. “Employees have seen first-hand the ways new technologies can help them do their jobs better, and are hungry to use the latest advancements to be more productive. While this may seem daunting, it’s a business-critical opportunity for companies to be at the forefront of the future workplace and enable the future workforce.”
“Advanced technology and collaboration has significantly grown in importance, especially as millennials are entering the workforce,” said Julie Coppernoll McGee, vice president, global marketing and communications, Intel. “As the research outlines, we’re seeing this generation play a vital role in the direction of employer decisions, and is leading the way to influence the adoption of emerging tech, strong communication tools and flexible work environments. A technologically modern workplace is necessary to create a productive, happy and capable workplace for everyone.”
While it is easy to appreciate the fact that employees would like the latest and greatest, along with their optimism that they will get it in the near future, as someone who is a bit “old school” when it comes to how business is done, I remain skeptic that face-to-face interactions will become obsolete. Indeed, one of the most disturbing trends in visiting modern “open space” offices, putting aside working with those located remotely, is witnessing people sitting next to each other with headsets on (no doubt listening to music making serial processing the norm) sending text messages to each other rather than conversing.
I happen to be a big fan of more immersive technologies, especially the use of video conferencing and the leveraging of WebRTC, which can enhance longer-distance interactions with enriched content. In fact, it will be interesting to see what metrics are developed to track how much. However, full tactile engagement of one’s senses based on proximity, I believe, will remain the way most deals, particularly big ones, get done. Technology and its adoption are certainly drivers of workplace change, but its proper use is where the rubber will meet the road.
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