Workplace Trends are Dramatically Affecting how CIOs Develop Communications Strategies

By Dan Tanel, CTO, Pinnaca

Dan Tanel, CTO, Pinnaca

It is a constant, relentless exercise for senior management to seek, identify and adapt to new trends that can directly affect their business. Arguably the most important overriding trend addresses employees—recruiting, hiring, training and retaining staff. While some might argue that workplace trends have always been paramount, there are important distinctions in play today to help companies meet the expectations of an emerging workforce.

Changes in the Workforce

The biggest change in the workforce pertains to the growing number of younger workers. While many young employees are only beginning to gain experience and skills, and develop maturity and responsibility, business leaders need to recognize how important millennials are to their future plans and how will they win the recruiting war for millennial talent. Consider that millennials already make up almost 40 percent of the workforce and are on pace to hit 75 percent by 2025, this question is not only important but immediate. Most significantly, millennials– and certainly, Generation Z—grew up with the Internet and the smartphone and are typically different from the digital immigrant information workers who grew up in an analog world.

"Adapt the corporate culture to a next-generation style of work which fosters collaboration and enables remote workers to be part of the team"

One of the key differences reflected by millennial workers is their use of communications solutions. Millennials are much more likely to get their news from Linkedin, BuzzFeed or other social channels than is the case for baby-boomers. According to a WSJ poll, 45 percent use social networking websites at work, regardless of whether the company prohibits their use. And 75 percent have accessed online collaborative tools or apps from free public websites when those technologies were not available at work or not meeting their expectations. And millennials are more often than not checking their mobile phones for alerts and notices. In addition, there are sizable differences in use of video communication according to an employee’s age or generation.

Millennials grew up with video, chat, real-time messaging, cloud services accessible 24 x 7 and rich media solutions that are not tethered to the office desktop or corporate conference room. Work is no longer where you go, it is what you do. The bottom line is that millennials use communications tools that are different from traditional enterprise solutions and view these tools as key to being productive in an always-on, anywhere work environment.

Changes in the Workplace

The office environment has also changed over the decades as management skills, cubicle designs and technology have evolved. Today, more and more knowledge workers find that working from home, remote offices or even public spaces provides them advantages in flexibility, downtime and lower stress from commuting. For a certain type of office worker, flexibility about when and where they do their work is widespread and growing.

Facilities designers have responded in turn, adapting office designs to fit with where and how employees work. Offices and cubicles are being replaced by the use of open spaces, small shared conference rooms and collaborative spaces. While the executive conference room will continue to play its traditional role as a host for senior staff meetings, formal video conferences and board room discussions, the small collaborative space, commonly dubbed “the huddle room,” has come into the spotlight for IT managers. Intended to meet the needs of millennials, dispersed teams and tech-savvy collaborators, the huddle room is an informal (unmanaged), easy-to-use meeting space for small local and remote teams designed to share information and speed decision making.

Huddle rooms are not replacements for cubicles or private offices; rather they should be designed to give millennial workers what they need: a flexible workspace that encourages movement, facilitates BYOD devices and accomodates free-floating ideation as well as audio and video communications.

Changes in Teleworking

The real benefits to an enterprise come when telework or telecommuting is thought of as a business strategy rather than a limited set of perks for employees. When it is part of a strategy, it is more easily accepted by management, funded appropriately and evaluated carefully.

Telework programs allow companies to employ the best people regardless of geographic limitations. Similarly, employers can retain employees who require flexible schedules or must move to another location. Additionally, being able to hire from a larger candidate pool (that includes those with disabilities) and then having higher satisfaction ratings are two HR benefits that can be significant.

Offices can be very distracting environments. Many home workers routinely report that a telework environment, perhaps like the familiar team offsite, allows for fewer disruptions and ultimately leads to higher productivity. Another benefit is the ability to keep your business up and running when external events—including bad weather, illness or construction hazards to name a few—prevent people from being able come to work.

What are the Benefits of a Telework Program to the Employee?

Regardless of where offices are located, if employees are communicating with colleagues and managers over the Internet, it doesn’t matter whether the remote worker is 3 miles or 3,000 miles away. Work-life balance can improve when schedules and work locations are flexible. Flexibility allows employees to choose when it is most practical and time-efficient to run errands, see doctors and transport children. Eliminating a 30-minute commute each way to work can lead to an additional hour per day for family or exercise.

Changes in the Integration of Business Applications

It is essential to create a sense of belonging for remote workers and home-office staff. This is where collaboration technologies play a key role, video conferencing in particular. Enterprise communications solutions today support instant messaging and presence as well as voice and video calling.

Many meetings take place in conference rooms. To support a culture of inclusion, it is important to enable remote workers to attend conference room-based meetings and presentations. Many remote participants will want to attend via video. Therefore, it is important to deploy a video environment that allows one or more users on personal devices to connect to conference room systems. The goal is to create a culture of inclusion for workers whether remote or not.

The technologies available today allow information workers, managers and senior executives to meet almost anywhere at any time and to confer over audio, video and screen sharing applications. In corporate conference rooms, new low cost systems provide high definition audio and video, boast interoperability with industry standard systems and offer simplified user interfaces to make call launching faster and more reliable than ever before. For the mobile worker, software running on BYOD devices and personal computers, combined with the new generation of video-conferencing-as-a-service (VCaaS), makes collaboration a stress-free, do-it-yourself way to conduct business.

Senior executives, line-of-business managers and IT professionals need to work together to provide a work environment and culture that will expeditiously and economically meet the needs of future office and information workers.

Those planning a forward-thinking enterprise communications strategy should use a trusted advisor to help them integrate video conferencing and unified communications into the collaboration roadmap. Embrace video, instant messaging and chat, presence detection and the other elements of a comprehensive visual collaboration environment. Provide these services to all employees. Adapt the corporate culture to a next-generation style of work which fosters collaboration and enables remote workers to be part of the team.