Does A Multigenerational Workplace Affect Your Digital Transformation?
For the first time in the history of the workplace, five different generations (from baby boomers to Generation Z) are working alongside each other. Having such a multigenerational workforce is exciting, and great for the economy. But it also raises the questions: How does this influence the business world? How does a multigenerational workplace and digital transformation relate. And more specifically, does this have an affect on an organization’s digital transformation?
The answer to that last question is yes.
Most experts agree that each generation has different traits, characteristics, goals, etc. based on when they were born and their current stage of life. These factors create gaps between generations and often result in conflicting views regarding work. Studies have shown that each generation has different work motivations, collaboration styles, communication methods and most importantly, technology preferences.
“Millennials are the first generation to be born into a digitally connected world” (Donald Tapscott, Grown Up Digital, 2008). As a result, they are completely at home with the web, social media and mobile technologies. They tend to prefer tools with “instant gratification” like digital systems and social apps. And generally speaking they easily become frustrated with older, legacy systems that lack speed. The Gen X’ers are similar, and also prefer digital systems, although they were exposed to them a little later in life and can easily move back and forth between digital systems and legacy systems.
Baby Boomers, on the other hand, did not grow up with digital technologies, and as a result generally tend to prefer email, paper memos, etc. For example, according to a recent study by Alfresco, 32% of millennials and 29% of Gen X’ers said collaborating on their mobile devices is very important. Compare that to the lower percentage of 23% of baby boomers who usually tend to prefer email, and legacy systems over mobile and social media.
As a quick side note, we know better than to follow blanket stereotypes. You could very possible have millennials that use nothing but email and Baby Boomers that excel using a social Intranet. And in fact, there was a study done that surveyed a group of people and found that 59% of participants experienced challenges while working on their collaboration technology. Of that 59 percent, 71% of millennials faced challenges compared to just 45% of baby boomers. It is important not to blindly assume your employees will neatly fit into a generational stereotype. That being said, this blog post discusses the general technology habits of each generation based on studies and research done.
Back to the big question: what does this mean for your digital transformation? Here are a few ways multigenerational workforces can affect your organization’s digital transformation:
It is common for older generations to value staying with a job/company for life and for them to have trouble adapting to change. Younger generations tend to have a more flexible mindset, jumping around from company to company, and easily taking on any change. Amy Casciotti, Vice President of Human Resources at TechSmith Corporation, says that “Understanding what people value and what motivates them makes it much easier.” If you have a good understanding of what your users value, it will be easier for you to help motivate them to adjust to a digital mindset. Otherwise, you risk encountering resistance which will ultimately lead to your digital strategy failing.
Each generation prefers different technology, based on what was available to them, what they grew up with, etc. If your organization has a multigenerational workforce, it is crucial that you take that into consideration when creating a digital strategy. If you do not take the time to get to know what technology your employees feel the most comfortable using, there is a higher likelihood of you choosing a technology that doesn’t get adopted by users.
How familiar each generation is with digital systems will affect the amount of training you provide for the new technology. Those more comfortable with digital technologies will take less time to become acquainted with new systems. And those less comfortable will take more time. You want to make sure you give your users the attention they need so that they successfully adapt any digital technologies put in place.
Getting to know your users’ work motivations, collaboration styles, communication methods and technology preferences is a surefire way to make sure your digital transformation is successful. Of course, we know it is not possible to please everyone. And there will undoubtedly have to be compromises. But it will ultimately be worth it in the end. Having multiple generations working together is a unique opportunity to have different generations of workers learn from each other and change the way work is done in the future.
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