Humans are creatures of habit. We grow accustomed to the way things are, even when they don’t work or serve us the way they should. At the same time, in the consumer landscape, we have come to expect a high standard of experience. Because of this, it’s not surprising that we presume that the products and services that
we choose will not just work, but that they will make our lives better, easier, and more enjoyable. But even with the consumer experience instilling such great expectations for everything we do, we are still tolerating subpar experiences in our work lives––particularly when it comes to tools and technology.
A workplace platform gives workers everything they need to navigate your workplace in one place
These poor experiences with technology or processes in the workplace affect both those that decide to adopt a tool (C-Suite) and those that use it (employees) in different ways. A SaaS trends report found that today’s businesses have between 40 and 200+ different tools and apps in-use in their workplace, and their employees use an average of 8 different tools every day.
From the employee side of things, there’s a certain amount of fatigue that comes with ineffective or constantly changing tools in the workplace. This is especially true when different teams are using different versions of the same technology; for example, the marketing team loves Asana to manage projects, but the engineering team uses Jira exclusively. This can create work silos, where employees aren’t aware of the work of other teams because they are all operating and communicating within separate technology environments. Think of the losses in cross-functional collaboration, idea sharing, and product innovation that results from these workplace technology silos.
The sheer number of SaaS providers that each company works with means that facilities and IT teams spend too much of their time figuring out how to make their tools work or connect. This leads to less-than-ideal, shoehorned solutions to make the tool work correctly for their business’ needs. There has to be a better way to get our work done more effectively, more collaboratively, and in a way that encourages the continuous learning and growth opportunities that will define the future workplace.
A helpful place to start: a workplace platform encompasses the digital tools that combine to power the processes and work of people in the physical workplace. This platform is built with tools that connect so that the end user––the employee––doesn’t have to toggle between so many applications in order to get their work done.
What can businesses stand to gain with a “less tools is more” approach? From an admin perspective, a workplace platform functions as a kind of virtual toolkit; like a digital Swiss Army knife, the tools you need are consolidated in one place. Rather than select an individual tool for every need a team has, a workplace platform provides the ability to manage all workplace activities from a single dashboard.
But where the consolidation of tools into one platform most compellingly impacts the work of IT and workplace leaders is in real-time analytics. This access to valuable usage insights allows workplace leaders to make more informed decisions and improve the workplace.
For employees, a workplace platform gives them everything they need to navigate your workplace in one place, so they can spend more time focusing on the work that matters. Whether setting up an interview with a candidate, being notified about an important delivery, or looking for a room to book a last-minute meeting, workplace technology should meet you where you are. A study by The Economist found that employees who responded that their company uses mobile technology in the workplace are typically more productive, creative, satisfied and loyal.
So what does this mean for workplace leaders? A seamless, effective, and enjoyable workplace experience is absolutely table-stakes for bringing your workplace into the future––and recruiting the next generation, Gen Z.
Heather McGowan Future of Work Keynote Speaker and Author
Tech skills depreciate; social skills appreciate. We’re not connecting to that. We have to connect to that new fuel source. And that fuel source is purpose.
This paradigm shift is reflected in the way different generations approach their career path, too. This is because of changes in the job market that are based on the following factors:
- The evolving nature of work, which now requires employee agility to adapt and be a continuous learner (this stands in contrast to the traditional model of going to college to specialize in one field of study, and then finding a job to directly apply those skills for your entire career)
- Technological advances
- Perceived job security
- Cultural perspectives on employee and employer loyalty (the idea of a job seeker’s market, for example, is true when the unemployment rate is low).
An episode of the Dear HBR podcast provides an example of the conflicts that can arise between the many generations in the workplace today. A Millennial employee describes how she created an internal, shared drive for candidate resumes at work, but her Baby Boomer colleagues insisted on printing them out. While intergenerational tension isn’t inevitable, this is a great example of why workplace experience leaders should find ways to ensure the various generations can best work together. A best practice to bear in mind: this will (and should be) tailored to the professional and personal dreams, goals, and priorities of your employees––not inherently tied to age or generation.
Workplace experience tip: Use your physical space as opportunity to address generational challenges, and develop solutions that reflect where your employees are in their working lives. Are they looking to meet more casually in open spaces or have the ability to schedule a recurring meeting in a dedicated room? Do they prefer to talk in-person or over Slack? A workplace platform can help gather the data you need to make those decisions.
Look for common ground while celebrating differences
Dispel ageism and generational stereotypes by taking stock of and emphasizing what employees share in common. Take the preferred communication styles of the youngest and oldest generations, the Gen Z and the Silent Generation, for example. Despite the vast differences in available technology, resources, historical and cultural contexts, both opt for in-person interactions.
In fact, the Wakefield Research survey cited 43% of Gen Z respondents prefer in-person communication to the following methods:
Remember: while there are certainly inarguable cultural, economic, and social forces that have shaped and will continue to shape every generation, avoid creating silos in the workplace based on generational affinities. Instead, emphasize both what people have in common and in difference, and collect employee feedback constantly on an organization-wide level and individual level to better understand and craft a workplace experience that is responsive and adaptable.
Create opportunities for employees of all ages to collaborate
Sometimes the best way to encourage employees to build trust, be open to and learn from one another is to create space for them to share and shadow their strengths. An HBR article on management of multiple generations in the workplace describes that an environment that leverages an employee’s coworker as a thought leader enables fellow coworkers to learn more from each other than from a formal training.
This is not only an important step towards establishing a coaching culture across your workplace that involves everyone; it creates real-world opportunities for a variety of tangible, task-based skills and those that involve critical thinking and emotional intelligence. These are also referred to as “hard” and “soft” skills (though these are terms that are increasingly seen as outdated due to the gendered implications) and the notion that they both need consistent cultivation no matter your role, age, or gender to remain competitive in the 21st century workplace.
Workplace experience tip: Create spaces where opportunities for shared learning between employees can occur. For example, an open space that can be booked via a workplace platform next to an office kitchen with comfortable seating, coffee, and snacks can be a great place to gather for an impromptu meeting, or a more casual check-in. The usage information will show you whether or not that placement of furniture and proximity to the kitchen is the best place for that, or if the open area should be moved somewhere else in the office that more employees will use more often.
Encourage mentorship, skill-sharing––and provide ample ways for employees to upskill on their own terms
The Pew Research Center has found that as employees increasingly explore self-directed learning, new learning environments and advances in digital accountability systems will grow as a result to certify participation in skill-based training programs. Some predict that many more workers will begin using online and app-based learning systems. With the traditional college degree becoming more and more out of reach as education continues to privatize and tuition skyrockets, the Pew Research Center also anticipates that employers may accept alternate credentialing systems, as online learning options continue to evolve.
Workplace experience tip: Send out a pulse survey to determine what kinds of technology and spaces would be most helpful to support these learning opportunities. This will help to determine space management needs and inform planning, such as: wayfinding, screen usage, and which doors will need access control.
People need reliable workplace technology to do their best work, but they also crave meaning and meaningful experiences at work. According to Kate O’Neill, internationally-recognized author, speaker, Tech Humanist, and founder and CEO of KO Insights, it’s up to companies to strike a balance and find alignment between what businesses and humans are trying to do, which she terms, “human-centric digital transformation,” which looks for that alignment and uses tech to amplify that.
This is where AI comes into play for making workplaces better. With the alignment of teams, integrations, and tools, work becomes more effective. Real-time data monitoring gives you analytical insights to fix problems before they arise or to fix them faster. A workplace platform can help companies of any size understand how their physical and virtual workspace is being used. Instead of searching for data, or making decisions without it, workplace experience leaders can clearly and quickly access vital operational information such as visitor frequency, package volume, room utilization, and more––all in one place.
One of the most compelling responses that emerged from the Wakefield Research survey is how comfortable and willing Gen Z feels about the presence of AI in the workplace. This stands in stark contrast to the fears of machines taking over and replacing people and their jobs. AI in the workplace is not only an expectation of Gen Z, it’s an aspect that they are comfortable with and feel will improve their workplace experience.
AI has far-reaching applications that touch every part of the workplace, in ways we encounter everyday. That customized newsletter with the latest thought leadership articles? An algorithm curated that. A playlist for deep focus? Yep, it was the robots. A list of available rooms to hold an impromptu team sync? In the future, AI will be the magic behind all of the near-instantaneous information we depend on throughout our work day. “Technology helps me make work that’s more human. It allows us to work better, smarter, and faster. And if you think that these things are here to challenge you, or challenge your place in our industry and in our society—not at all. It’s going to help me do better work.” Shannon Washington, Executive Creative Director and AdColor-award winner
Workplace experience tip: Prioritize how to empower employees with access to smarter technologies and invest in machine learning-enabled technologies to help people achieve more meaningful outcomes and work.
Matt Harris Head of Workplace Technology, Envoy
I’ve been surrounded by technology my whole life. As a business leader, if I can’t implement something that’s going to be simple and reliable, I won’t implement it at all.
43% of Gen Z respondents prefer to communicate with co-workers in-person
How do workplaces challenge the workplace experience status quo to encourage and empower meaningful work? Sentiments are shifting. We know that Gen Z looks for job stability, but there’s a lot of different priorities they, and the entire intergenerational workforce, are balancing.
Gen Z won’t work like the preceding generations, and we shouldn’t approach a workplace technology strategy with them in the same ways. Instead, workplace experience leaders need to envision ways to evolve to fit their needs and interests.
Maintaining the status quo in your office will not make it easier to hire Gen Z. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Working with one workplace platform can empower Gen Z and your intergenerational workforce with the connected tools they need to contribute their best, most meaningful work.