Everyone has read the statistics on the growing numbers of tech-savvy millennials in the workplace. If you’re in the workplace, you’re already experiencing it. The numbers are no longer the point.
The critical point is identifying what we can learn from how this generation uses technology to collaborate.
This isn’t some B-school exercise. Innovation and creativity are key currencies in the knowledge economy. Companies that can’t attract, retain, and inspire knowledge workers will find themselves being disrupted. Witness the credit unions arguing that Uber has devalued New York taxi medallions by as much as 40 percent.
Their always-on technology, socially-networked lives have taught millennials to collaborate in specific ways. They want flexibility, simplicity and efficiency. They like real-time interactions (virtual and in-person) that spark creativity, and use wikis and other online social spaces to share, iterate, and find support.
And they don’t think their current collaboration options are cutting it.
A recent survey found 71% of millennials saying they face challenges using their companies’ collaboration tools. In another study, 38% of millennials said outdated modes of collaboration hindered their companies’ ability to innovate.
Mono-Functional Applications Create Multi-Tool Collaboration Model
The kicker is that millennials aren’t waiting for their IT departments. They already know their options and start using whichever tool they think most quickly and easily solves their need. Hence the rise of Shadow IT and the high use of mono-function apps.
Mono-function apps do one thing really well. Since more millennials prefer chat and text than do older workers, they’re using tools like Slack, Snapchat, and Zoom. By comparison, email is slow and doesn’t provide the same give-and-take as a chat or online meeting app. And when it comes to document management, the cloud-based systems, such as Dropbox or Box, dominate. And all the tools must be mobile.
The common characteristics of these mono-function apps is: they’re easy to adopt, easy to use, and provide the flexible collaboration millennials prefer.
All these various mono-function apps combine into a multi-function collaboration model marked by numerous silos of communication and content created by each mono-function app being used. Thus there’s no context, no connective thread supporting employees as they each use different tools for different functions.
More importantly, millennials select tools they each find most useful. So although individuals may have the tools that help them in the moment, the enterprise isn’t always seeing the benefits of collaboration.
Fighting Against Shadow IT with a Unified Platform
The millennial preference for simple, flexible tools should ease the transition to newer collaboration technologies for older workers. And if companies aren’t pro-active about providing the collaboration tools millennials find desirable and useful, they’ll end up with different employees working in separate tools. Hardly the path of meaningful collaboration and innovation.
Instead of leaving millennials to find their own mono-function apps, reduce the temptation for shadow IT by bringing in a unified platform that meets them where they are. That means a unified platform that gives all employees the flexibility to collaborate in multiple ways, but with a simple user experience resulting in people from all generations actually using it.
A unified online collaboration platform combines the flexibility and features most desired with the simplicity of a mono-function app. It also centralizes content and communications, providing the contextual collaboration needed to keep productivity moving along at the pace millennials and their organizations seek.
In truth, using online collaboration tools that reflect millennials’ work values helps everyone perform at peak creativity and productivity.