A look at five generations in the workplace
For the first time since the industrial revolution we’re experiencing intergenerational working, with up to five generations in the workplace.
With that in mind we decided to take a look into these five generations and their working styles to discover what tools and technologies are needed to bridge the generational gap.
Prior to the pandemic, demand for collaboration software and video conferencing tools was rising but perhaps not as rapidly as people expected. Therefore, many were initially unprepared for home working, and some still remain frustrated with the technology available to them. Before we get into the detail of our findings on how the five generations are engaging with technology today, here are a few data points that are interesting to share as to how technology is being consumed.
Read on to discover the full landscape of technology in the workplace and how we’re all adapting to ever changing technology.
Let’s introduce the main characteristics our five generations are known for. But as our research below goes on to show, there isn’t a one size fits all approach to generational attitudes and capabilities towards technology adoption.
This generation, also known as maturists, were historically considered to be disengaged from technology and prefer to talk things through face to face. They believe jobs are for life, so it’s important to ensure they have everything they need to be effective at work as they’re often the most loyal generation. Traditionalists would prefer to educate through books and physical reading material.
Official statistics from the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII) show since the end of the default retirement age in the UK, improvements in healthcare and life expectancy, people are working, particularly part-time, often well into their 70s and 80s.
(Those born between 1945 and 1960)
Also known as the sandwich generation, Baby Boomers find themselves in the challenging position of providing both childcare and elder care. They were early adopters of IT systems and believe that careers are defined by employers. Baby Boomers would prefer to talk face-to-face but are happy to chat over the phone or email if required and are increasingly embracing new technologies through learning from their children and grandchildren. This generation are dedicated to working and traditionally aspired to have a secure job and own a home.
Research from Chartered Insurance Institute shows that the employment rate for people aged 65 and over has doubled during the past 30 years, increasing from 4.9% to 10.2%.
According to ONS figures, people aged 65 and over accounted for 22% of all part-time self-employment in 2015, rising 14% from 2001. Back in 2015 half of those aged over 70 were self-employed.
(Those born between 1961 and 1980)
This generation has seen the introduction of the first PC and early mobile technology. They are digitally aware but may not feel 100% comfortable with emerging technology. Generation X are more likely to be loyal to a profession, not necessarily an employer. Text and email are natural ways to keep in touch. This generation are dedicated to family and friends, so work-life balance is a key part of their employment.
According to research by Workplace Insights, Generation X (along with Baby Boomers) account for almost half of freelancers, with 48% in the 40-49 or 50-59 age brackets.
(Those born between 1981 and 1995)
These digital natives have seen it all, from the birth of social media to reality TV culture, and are more comfortable using new and emerging technology than historic technology systems.
They may have found a stark difference in the technology they used throughout their education to that of their first workplace.
Rather than working for an organisation, they see themselves working alongside it. Their contact preference would be online or through messaging. Millennials are looking for more freedom so flexible working hours are a big decider for them in terms of the employers they choose.
Research from 2018 by Deloitte shows that 50% of Millennials consider flexibility “very important” in choosing a job, and 21% having moved job within the past year. What’s more, 43% of millennial workers planned to leave their jobs within two years.
(Those born after 1995)
The internet was always a thing for generation Z, having grown up with technology as second nature. However, with limited experience in the workplace, they will struggle and get frustrated with legacy technology and so look to other generations to guide them. They are more likely to be career multi taskers and move seamlessly between organizations. Video calls, chat and social networks would be their ideal contact preference. Generation Z will generally prefer to self-teach online.
Research from Accenture shows that 83% of graduates in the UK are willing to relocate for work, with 68% welcoming artificial intelligence (AI) and other technology at work.
Technology promised that it would bring all these generations together, that there would be a platform and solution for everyone. And for the most part it’s playing its part in achieving this. We’ve all enjoyed the heartwarming moments of FaceTime with distant grandparents through the pandemic lockdown or family and friends online quiz nights. However, too often there’s still too much choice, too much noise, too much confusion. When making the right right choice for your business, many employers and employees can be left overwhelmed by the plethora of technology they are expected to use on a daily basis? So, what’s the solution?
Pete Tomlinson, CEO of Windsor Telecom
Customers want the same experience at work as they do at home or at play. This means easy to use technology across any device in any location. Straightforward ways to communicate and collaborate with colleagues, friends and customers alike and to be able to manage it all quickly, efficiently and enjoyably.
We spoke to people across the generations to discover what their biggest technology frustrations in lockdown have been. Below you can see different generations experiencing the same issues in various ways.
What greatly frustrated me during lockdown was my lack of technical skills which mostly has to do with my age – 73. My main work is teaching live seminars which were all cancelled and won’t start up again until next Spring. I bravely attempted to teach a few seminars online and my confidence was hugely dented when the screen blanked out or lighting was so poor that those online couldn’t see me clearly. I am now doing my best in a world where I was left behind because I never foresaw what was coming.
Stella Ralfini, 73 |
We were all promised that the networks and broadband providers had the bandwidth and capacity to cope, clearly they didn’t account for my three iPads, iPhones, MacBooks and a host of other devices like my Apple and Amazon TV that all need to be connected all the time! Then there’s WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom. Why does everyone want to see everyone? What’s wrong with just talking on the phone with no video? It’s ok to just speak on audio only.
Christian Azolan, 37 |
The biggest issue we have had during lockdown is having to interview people via Zoom (for a podcast) and having their audio cut in and out. There’s no way to salvage it and makes it a waste of everyone’s time. An issue we never had to deal with when we were sitting with people face to face.
Lindsey Evans, 31 |
As a travel influencer and blogger with over 72k Instagram followers [Dymabroad] I constantly have to be connected to the internet to manage my online business. Since the WiFi connection in my house is very bad, it was very inconvenient to work from home. Frequently, the WiFi suddenly stops working. Also, it costs lots of time when there is a power outage (which happens quite a lot at my home). Normally, I work a lot at other places, such as the library or a Starbucks, but because of the lockdown I couldn’t go there. Therefore, I lost a lot of time due to these technical issues.
Dymphe Mensink, 22 |
For many, the future of working is virtual. Companies need to invest in becoming more adaptable, focused on providing technologies that are straightforward to use and the training required for every generation to be able to use them with ease. This means rather than opting between technology tools or training, providing both.
Many technology providers are adapting to be able to suit all five generations. The adoption curve has now been turned on its head. This is amplified when new generations enter the workplace.
Mass adoption of home working has brought technology pain points and the issues surrounding connectivity and communication to the forefront of people’s minds.
Here we’ll take a look at some of the best technology and tools on the market that can help get all generations in the workplace on the same page, despite different working styles.
With the user experience and adoption becoming far greater priorities for every technology provider, companies should make sure that they don’t compromise on these when looking for the right solution for their business.
While you may not think of training as a tool, it is instrumental in ensuring all generations in your workplace are on the same page. Training doesn’t just take place in person, so it’s important that multi-generational workplaces adapt to this. After all, different generations have different needs.
A team that is aware of all the technology at their disposal, and that are confident using it are likely to be more productive and collaborative. They can also play a supporting role with team members who may be less confident using certain technologies.
Demand for video conferencing, whether it be standalone tools like Zoom or more integrated unified comms solutions like Microsoft Teams, has surged since lockdown. In fact, business-focused mobile app downloads reached 62 million during the week of March 14-21, the highest number ever seen.
While some employees are experiencing so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’, the key is to get the right balance of video and phone calls. Research suggests that the energy needed for video calls is so much more than in person so plan your meetings with that in mind to help maintain a happy, motivated workforce.
A workforce consumer survey from Gartner revealed that employees spent an average time of 11.7 hours a week in meetings. In fact, 9% of respondents spent more than 20 hours of their working week in meetings.
Microsoft Teams allows you to scale from 3 to 300 users for calls. What’s more you can collaborate in real time with the sharing of whiteboards, content and desktops.
Read our thoughts on Zoom vs Microsoft Teams.
Instant messaging apps like Slack and Skype, or new unified comms tools like Microsoft Teams, mean that the team can be in contact with each other throughout the day, without needing to pick up the phone. However, all have the capability for video and audio calls if needed. You can send files with ease and quickly ask any burning question rather than waiting for an email reply. It’s worth being aware however, that Skype for Business is being discontinued by Microsoft in 2021 and replaced with Teams.
VoIP cloud phone systems provide businesses with an easy way to answer calls on-the-go without being restricted to one device. The call handling features make managing calls in and out of your business responsive and straightforward and integrate with unified comms solutions like Microsoft Teams to provide one easy way to communicate and collaborate across your business from one platform.
When considering cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools there’s a clear market leader in Microsoft 365 with their vision of enabling users to work anywhere on any device. They’ve gone beyond the office suite of Word, Excel and PowerPoint to include true collaboration tools such as Teams, SharePoint and OneNote that drive collaboration across traditional boundaries.In isolation each component of the Microsoft suite has plenty of worth and often more capable competitors.
Google Drive integrates seamlessly with Docs, Sheets and Sides and has the capability for multiple users to edit and view files at the same time.
We’ve already mentioned that Zoom or Slack have powerful video or chat functionality that in isolation more than rivals Teams.
Dropbox brings files and cloud content together securely with over 450,000 business teams trusting it daily.
But you can’t get away from the success of Microsoft 365 combining all of these applications together with a common interface that much of the workforce has literally grow up using, combined with business-grade security and reliability. Around 1 million businesses worldwide are now using it every day.
As our case studies show you can’t work effectively and use technology like the above without a reliable connection. Without that your employees are going to struggle to be productive and frustrations will rise.
In August 2020 the government reached its gigabit broadband rollout milestone, with half a million premises with access to gigabit technology. But there still fundamental improvements needed to get everyone connected and working as seamlessly as possible.
There are various options to choose from when it comes to improved connectivity, ranging from solutions like business broadband perfect for those needing a robust connection when working from home, to leased line DIA and SD-WAN for offices, businesses and people back in the office.
We analysed our customer call data from 2010, 2019 and Jan – July 2020, which amounts to over 73.9 million calls.
A sample size of 7,385 companies across the UK and Ireland shows that:
(Period compared – March – July 2019 vs March – July 2020)
In 2010, 18% of all business calls came from a mobile but in 2019, 54% of business calls were made from mobiles.
Over 500% increase in making business calls from a mobile and phoning mobile numbers between 2010 and 2019.
Windsor Telecom saw biggest change in charity and non-profit sector using more mobiles to make calls, while retail sector has shown a drop in 20% less mobile calls made between 2010 and 2019.
There’s no denying the challenges that come with meeting customers and colleagues expectations of technology in a multi–generational workplace. However, we all depend on technology for our everyday lives, so it’s vital that companies embrace solutions that cater to all and engage everyone.
From traditionalists to generation, the five generations are all shaping the future of the workplace and with increasing convergence of software, communications and IT, our top piece of advice is actually not to get too hung up finding the ‘perfect’ tool for each specific task of group of users. That may sound counter intuitive, but the most successful organisations are those that have adopted a properly holistic approach that balances everyone’s needs and then offers a simplified set of straightforward, flexible and well-integrated technologies.
If you’d like to learn more about how we could help your multi-generational workforce be more efficient and less frustrated, get in touch with Windsor Telecom today.