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article imageQ&A: Are you assuming employees' workplace tool preferences? Special

By Tim Sandle     Nov 28, 2019 in Business
Employers are working to accommodate the needs of every employee - from the young Gen Zers to the older Baby Boomers, but research shows that communication and work style preferences don't vary much across age demographics, defying the stereotypes.
If this is the case, why are companies investing in multiple solutions to try and fit the needs of all employees if they all want the same solutions? According to Becky Linahon, director of marketing at TetraVX, it’s due to a lack of analyzing end-users needs.
She notes that while it seems obvious, a number of organizations continue to make technology decisions without taking end-users into consideration when they make the decision to deploy communications and collaboration technologies - a costly mistake.
Digital Journal caught up with Linahon to learn more.
Digital Journal: How are workplace demographics changing?
Becky Linahon: Today’s workplace is a melting pot of five different age groups. With the retirement ages getting higher and higher, the US workforce now includes everyone from Gen Z (born ’97-’12) to the silent generation (born ’25-’42). In recent years, no group has gotten more attention than the now largest workforce population, Millennials. Whether it’s discussing the way they’ve changed the workplace, or even how as a consumer they changed long-standing companies’ strategies, it’s likely that you’ve read about just how much ‘disruption’ they’ve caused.
Despite the attention, this isn’t a new concept. Generation after generation has been scrutinized to a certain degree and I have no doubt that as more Gen Z’ers enter the workforce, the attention will shift yet again. However, recent studies suggest that when it comes to work, there are few meaningful differences among these generations. And in fact, the belief that those differences exist could promote stereotypes that are more detrimental to organizational culture than the age differences themselves. In other words, all this panic is not only unnecessary, but causing painful divisions.
Take, for instance, the “Ok Boomer” trend or the lazy millennial stereotype. At the end of the day, employees generally have more in common than assumed, especially with their many shared workplace goals. They work on the same teams, communicate with the same coworkers and work towards the same end results, regardless of when they were born. This is important to keep in mind as organizations consider their collaboration programs.
DJ: How are employers generally seeking to provide tools for the varied workforce?
Linahon: It’s a common occurrence that organizations make assumptions about the needs of their employee base, focusing more on technical checkboxes, which ends up being the root cause of poor adoption. If we use generational stereotypes and blanket assumptions to drive the technology in our organization, ultimately what we are left with are unused tools that take up valuable resources and budget.
DJ: Is this the right strategy? Do workers want different tools?
Linahon:That’s the real question, isn’t it? What do they want? What will they actually use? We need to ask. Though it may seem obvious, it’s often a piece of the puzzle that’s overlooked as IT teams juggle the many moving parts of an organization’s infrastructure. We can’t categorize users by age and make assumptions based on perception. The ultimate goal is to foster collaboration and if we isolate users into large groups and label them, we run the risk of doing the exact opposite. Instead, it’s important to look at use cases and business processes, talking to individuals to define how they want to work together to get the job done. What, surprisingly enough, tends to happen is that IT teams can find efficiencies in the number of platforms or licenses they’re rolling out, and ultimately have to manage, therefore saving time and money. It’s a win-win situation.
DJ: Do employers generally fail to perform analysis of end-user needs?
Linahon:As stated, yes, this is one of the more overlooked pieces of having a successful deployment. Without proper analysis of your end-users, you can’t truly understand their goals and what they need to be able to do their jobs well. Especially in the world of Unified Communications and Collaboration (UCC) we see this all the time. Organizations are poached by providers claiming to be the best of the best, but what’s best for one organization may not be for another. Part of our job at TetraVX is to balance the needs and expectations for IT leaders, business leaders, and end-users. Doing this aligns business groups and roles in understanding how best to take advantage of technology.
DJ: How can effective analysis of employee data be performed?
Linahon:It’s important to engage the end-user to discover their day-to-day workflow, workplace culture, and collaboration tendencies in order to provide an end-to-end, all-inclusive UCC experience. In our own process, we start by gaining an understanding of an organization’s technology culture which includes the different ways employees use existing technology, the current perspective toward technology and the existing workflow.
To do this, we collect data through user community surveys, one-to-many stakeholder interviews and group sessions. Next, we analyze the results of the surveys and interviews and describe the current state of the collaboration environment. We also review any existing data or studies as part of this process. The main objective of end-user analysis, no matter if done internally or with the support of a partner like TetraVX, is to determine how your end-users utilize the current unified communications infrastructure, detail common themes and identify opportunities and alignment to technologies.
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